Numbers game sees USA out, Brazil through
THE DAY REPLAYED –Lucky number seven and the unfortunate number 13 play a part in superstitions in many cultures throughout the globe, and they were at work on the seventh matchday of the Olympic Football Tournaments Rio 2016, which saw a thrilling day of quarter-finals in the women’s edition, two of which were decided by a penalty shootout.
The Stars and Stripes were stunned by Sweden in Brasilia, with USA No13 Alex Morgan playing an integral role. Her 13th goal of 2016 cancelled out Stina Blackstenius’s opener in the 77th minute, with 13 left to play. Morgan would then be an unlucky omen for USA, missing the first penalty in the shoot-out which saw Sweden’s No7 Lisa Dahlkvist hit the winner - meaning a second London 2012 gold medal-winning side were eliminated in Brasilia after Mexico's exit at the Estadio Nacional on Wednesday.
Germany’s No7 Melanie Behringer needed no luck, just pure ability, as she hit a stunning effort to decide their quarter-final against China PR. The Asian side were unfortunate from the spot themselves, with Wang Shuang hitting the foot of the post with a late penalty that would have sent their tie to extra time.
Canada had a lucky No13, as Sophie Schmidt popped up to score the only goal of their last eight match against France, with a 1-0 win a repeat of the London 2012 bronze medal match.
The hosts were then pushed to the wire by Australia, but eventually got revenge for their FIFA Women's World Cup™ exit at the hands of the Matildas last year with a penalty shoot-out win after a goalless 120 minutes. It was Tamires with Brazil's seventh successfully-converted penalty, the 13th spot-kick that rippled the net in the shootout, before Alanna Kennedy's effort was magnificently saved by Barbara.
Results*Quarter-finals USA 1-1 Sweden AET (3-4 PSO) China PR 0-1 Germany *Canada 1-0 France Brazil 0-0 Australia AET (7-6 PSO)
Goal of the day*China PR 0-1 Germany, Melanie Behringer (76’)** *Silvia Neid’s outfit faced a Chinese wall of resistance throughout their quarter-final in Salvador, and it was the German No7 who produced a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock and ultimately win the game. A ball floated in from the German left was masterfully cushioned by Anja Mittag and Behringer burst onto the bouncing ball. She unleashed a venomous strike past the despairing Zhao Lina, who could do nothing to stop the Bayern Munich midfielder’s superb hit.
Memorable moments*Dahlkvist demonstrates nerves of steel *Lisa Dahlkvist had been here before on the global stage. She stood, ready to take a penalty against Hope Solo, as she had done in Group C of the 2011 Women’s World Cup. That time, she converted. This time, in Solo’s words, “the strap just came off” of one of the goalkeeper’s gloves, meaning a change of equipment before the spot kick was taken. The wait did not faze Dahlkvist, who had much more at stake in this showdown with the USA No1. The Swedish midfielder slammed her spot-kick into the net and sent her country into the Rio 2016 semi-final, in the process becoming the first side to deny the Stars and Stripes a medal in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.
Schult, Shuang and Cristiane, Williams share sympathy** In Salvador, Behringer’s Hammer-Tor seemed to be sending the Germans into the semi-finals without a hitch, but Leonie Maier felled Wang Shuang in the box to offer the Asian side a reprieve from 12 yards, which the Chinese forward hit against the foot of the post. A touching moment occurred seconds later as a distraught Shuang was consoled by German goalkeeper Almuth Schult after the ball went out of play. That sentiment was reversed in even more dramatic circumstances later in Belo Horizonte as a sobbing Lydia Williams - who pulled off a stunning save to keep the scores level in normal time - was consoled by former Chicago Red Stars team-mate Cristiane after the Aussies' elimination.
USA-Sweden’s seventh switch makes history** Mallory Pugh’s injury in extra time saw Jill Ellis forced into a change that would not have been possible but for a decision made in Cardiff five months ago. The IFAB’s AGM in March ushered in a two-year trial for a fourth substitute to be used in extra time, with Rio 2016 representing the first time a senior tournament had the opportunity to test out the potential alteration to the Laws of the Game. Lindsey Horan replaced Pugh as the USA’s fourth substitute – the seventh in the game overall - with Emma Berglund replacing Jessica Samuelsson for Sweden with a minute remaining of the 120, meaning the game also represented the first time eight substitutes had been made in a senior tournament.
The words“It shouldn’t have gone to penalties to begin with. When it did I still felt very confident in Hope and the players selected. Obviously I didn’t convert mine and being the first penalty taker it’s important to boost the confidence of the team, and so I feel like I failed in that today.” Alex Morgan, USA
Next matchday*Tuesday 16 August ** Semi-finals Brazil - Sweden, Rio de Janeiro, Maracana, 13.00 Canada - Germany, Belo Horizonte, Estadio Mineirao, 16.00 (All times local)*