The group stages of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 ultimately saw the expected heavyweights progress to the last eight, but with some surprise results throughout. Canada, for one, finished with a 100 per cent record, sweeping past Germany on their way to topping Group F.
Their North American neighbours USA were not at their electric best, grinding out two tight victories against New Zealand and France before succumbing to a late Colombian equaliser in their final pool game. Hosts Brazil were an enthralling watch, with a particularly impressive 5-1 win over Sweden in the bank. The varying form of all these powerhouses have set up four intriguing quarter-finals, which FIFA.com preview ahead of Friday’s action.
Match of the day
Canada-France, Arena Corinthians, Friday 12 August, 19.00 (local time)
Les Rouges versus Les Bleues is a game steeped in the relatively recent tradition of high-profile matches. In 2011, the pair met in the group stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, with Rio 2016 squad members Camille Abily and Elodie Thomis on the scoresheet in a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
The Canucks would have revenge just over a year later at London 2012, where they earned a smash-and-grab bronze medal with an injury time winner from Diana Matheson. Both sides come into this Rio 2016 showdown in top form, with Canada having beaten Germany for the first time in their last outing and France impressing in sweeping aside New Zealand. Canada will be hoping their friendly meeting last month in Auxerre, in which Phillipe Bergeroo’s side came out on top 1-0 with Abily scoring the only goal, is not an omen for the quarter-final.
The other matches
The ‘Pia Sundhage derby’ opens the day’s action in Brasilia, with the former USA coach facing the Stars and Stripes with Sweden. Sundhage has a strong tradition in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, having led USA to the 2008 and 2012 gold medals. The current Blugalt coach played for Sweden in the side’s only Olympic meeting, at Atlanta 1996, as USA defeated their European counterparts 2-1 in Orlando. Most recently on the global stage, the pair battled to a goalless draw in Winnipeg last summer at the Women’s World Cup, with Sundhage also in the starting XI during the inaugural global finals in 1991, when the USA won 3-2.
Brazil are up against in-form Australia, who hit their stride in grabbing six last time out against Zimbabwe. Marta and Co will be looking to avenge their shock Round of 16 defeat to the Matildas just over a year ago in Moncton, which saw Kyah Simon grab the only goal of the game ten minutes from time.
It is likely the meeting between China PR and Germany will be closer than their only previous meeting at this level, which saw the European side emerge 8-0 winners in the record margin of victory in the history of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. There will, though, be a test for the Chinese defence, which has not conceded in three hours of football, as the Germans grabbed nine goals in Group F. No other side has scored more at Rio 2016.
Player to watch
Elise Kellond-Knight (Australia)
No team have conceded fewer goals than Brazil at Rio 2016, with the hosts’ outstanding attacking play built on solid foundations. In order to break this solid defensive line down, the Matildas may look to their No8, who was their outstanding player in her side’s final group game. She produced some devilish deliveries for her team-mates from set pieces, as well as instigating a number of attacking moves which resulted in goals. A Seleção will be wary of Kellond-Knight though, she was Player of the Match when the Aussies dumped the Brazilians out of last year’s Women’s World Cup.
2 – In the Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments that have had exclusively four team groups before Rio 2016 (every edition aside from 2004), only two sides had progressed to the knockout stages having scored just two goals (Japan in 2012, and Germany in 2008). China PR and Sweden have joined them by doing the same at this edition, and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Japanese and Germans, who claimed Silver and Bronze respectively in those tournaments.
"This group is super experienced and we understand that it's the bigger picture. Ultimately, we accomplished our goal which was to finish top of the group."
Megan Rapinoe, USA
USA-Sweden (Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 13.00)
China PR-Germany (Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 16.00)
Canada-France (Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, 19.00)
Brazil-Australia (Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 22.00)
(All times local)