Sweden and Germany going for gold
After two weeks of intense competition, the Rio 2016 Women's Olympic Football Tournament reaches its climax on Friday with Sweden and Germany pinning their hopes on gold. The two teams are perennial heavyweights of the women's game, but both will be heading into unknown territory, with neither having graced the final in the five previous women's Olympic competitions.
In contrast, the bronze medal match will be more than familiar to both contenders – and not least Brazil, as the hosts vie for third place again after losing out in 1996 and 2000. They will be anxious for a different outcome as they look to make up for their semi-final defeat, having lost 4-3 on penalties to Sweden after a goalless draw. Opponents Canada are no novices at this level, however, and will draw confidence from their bronze medal four years ago. FIFA.com previews both games as the finish line approaches.
Matches of the day*Sweden-Germany, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Friday 19 August, 17.30 (local time) *These nations have much to be proud of in the women's game, including two of Europe's most competitive leagues and a long history of international success, but this will the first time either Germany or Sweden have stepped out to contest an Olympic final. It will also be just their second meeting in the competition, Silvia Neid's Germany having triumphed 2-0 after extra time during the quarter-finals at Beijing 2008.
True to form, Sweden so nearly missed out on this showpiece as well. After kicking off with a hard-fought victory against South Africa and a heavy loss to Brazil, they ended the group stage by drawing 0-0 with China PR, before failing to find the net in their knockout games against USA and Brazil. Instead, they edged both those ties on penalties – proof, all the same, that they possess genuine character and impressive composure whatever the circumstances. That will no doubt serve them well against Germany as their opponents are high on confidence after picking up steam in their last two outings. They too began with a win, draw and a loss in the group phase, but since then they have gone from strength to strength, following up a 1-0 triumph against China PR with their convincing 2-0 defeat of Canada.
Brazil-Canada, Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Friday 19 August, 13.00 (local time) Like Sweden, Brazil have drawn their last three matches 0-0 – but unlike the Scandinavians they left the Maracana in tears on Tuesday, beaten 4-3 in a fateful penalty shoot-out. The target now is to clinch the consolation prize of a bronze medal at Arena Corinthians, yet they face the sternest of tests against a Canada side buoyed by previous experience. It was the North Americans, after all, who dusted themselves down to earn a place on the podium at London 2012.
Six survivors from that squad are involved once again, giving John Herdman's line-up enviable pedigree. One of them, defender Rhian Wilkinson, has said: "This team is even stronger than our side four years ago. We have to and we will do everything to win another bronze medal and relive that experience." The Canucks also boast a better record than Brazil at Rio 2016, having prevailed in all but one of their games and overcoming the likes of Australia and France. Only Germany, second in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking, have got the better of them so far, ending Canada's bid for gold with a 2-0 semi-final win.
*Player to watch Melanie Behringer (Germany)* Top scorer at Rio 2016 with five goals, the attacking midfielder has found the net in her last three games and is clearly at the height of her powers. With Sweden having kept clean sheets in their own last three matches, it will be fascinating to see whether the No7 has what it takes to unlock the Scandinavians' resolute defence and put her side on course for yet another international trophy.
The stat 3 –Battling for bronze for the third time in their history, Brazilwill be desperate to end their losing streak. A **Seleçao's first taste of this play-off tie came 20 years ago at Atlanta 1996, when they went down 2-0 to Norway, and they fared no better in Sydney four years later as they lost out to Germany by the same score. Playing in front of their own fans, and up against the bronze medallists from London 2012, Marta and Co will have their fingers crossed that they can make it third time lucky.
The words"For me personally, reaching this final is worth just as much as getting there with USA in 2008 and 2012. The big difference is that, with USA, everyone was betting on us to win the final. We were favourites. This time, I don't think anyone is betting on us, but we're going to show why we've reached this far." Sweden coach Pia Sundhage, a two-time gold medallist and reigning Olympic champion with USA
Match schedule Bronze medal match Brazil-Canada, Sao Paulo, 19 August, 13.00 *
Gold medal match* Sweden-Germany, Rio de Janeiro, 19 August, 17.30
(all times local)