Goalkeepers grab spotlight in penalty shoot-outs
Australia reach new heights, Sweden march on
FIFA.com reviews the latest from the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
Rarely, if ever, has the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament produced so much drama on a single matchday. Briefly it looked like there would be a new gold medal winner with USA trailing the Netherlands before the world champions rebounded to win on penalties.
Canada also progressed with a tense shootout win to set-up a North American semi-final. Australia came from behind to edge Great Britain in an instant classic, while hosts Japan said farewell after being outgunned by Sweden.
Canada 0-0 (4-3 pens) Brazil Canada’s resilience is legendary and it was once again on display in Miyagi as the Canucks held off what has been a rampant Brazil during the group stage. In a match of few genuine goalscoring opportunities, Brazil looked more dangerous going forward but it was Canada defender Vanessa Gilles who headed against the bar during the second half. Canada fell behind during penalties but goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe pulled off two superb saves at the back-end of the shoot-out to take her side through to a third consecutive semi-final. Great Britain 3-4 Australia (AET) This was a match that is surely destined to go down as one of the most memorable in women’s Olympic Football history. Australia came back from 2-1 down with a last-minute goal to send the match into extra time in a see-sawing contest that had spectacular goals, penalty misses and endless entertainment. Ellen White bagged a treble but was somehow still on the losing side as counterpart Sam Kerr hit a double and Aussie teenager Mary Fowler underlined her prodigy status with a crucial goal.
Sweden 3-1 Japan Sweden proved too strong, quick and athletic for Japan in the end, though the hosts had a lot of the ball and fought back well after falling behind in a blistering start by the Swedes. The latter stages saw the experience of Caroline Seger come to the fore as she dropped back to help form almost a second line of defence, which the Japanese never looked like breaching after going 3-1 down. There were three different scorers for the Swedes once again, with their firepower continuing to prove impressive. Netherlands 2-2 (2-4 pens) USA USA’s ability to find a dose of reserve was once again on display as the world champions came from behind for a shoot-out win. The in-form Dutch looked more than capable of overturning the result of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, but Alyssa Naeher ensured it wasn’t to be. The imperious Vivianne Miedema scored another brace but Naeher saved a penalty in the dying minutes of normal time and did so twice in the shoot-out as the Stars and Stripes cast aside quarter-final demons from Rio 2016.
Goal-fest for the ages Australia had only ever managed one goal in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament knockout stage courtesy of Lisa De Vanna way back in 2004. Yet, the Matildas bagged four in Kashima in a record-equalling knockout stage goal-fest that matched the storied 4-3 semi-final win for USA over Canada at London 2012. Queens of the spot-kick save While this tournament has been marked by incredible goalscoring, this quarter-final matchday will also be remembered for the pivotal intervention of goalkeepers. Heading the list was Canada’s Labbe who made two superb saves in the shoot-out to lead her side to victory. New face Teagan Micah made a momentum-changing penalty save from Caroline Weir in Australia’s win, while Naeher topped them all with a crucial spot-kick save late in the match against the Netherlands before two more in the shoot-out. Greats race for immortality Marta (13 goals) and Christine Sinclair (12) went head-to-head in a match-up of veteran goalscorers, both of whom were chasing Cristiane’s Olympic scoring record of 14. Despite the avalanche of goals on the matchday, neither of the respective players were able to trouble the scorers in their tense scoreless draw. Instead, Dutch striker Miedema’s double extended her single tournament record to ten, and closed in the trio of all-time greats. Miedema, incredibly, has now scored two or more goals in each of her last five international matches. Tale of two VAR moments Sweden continued their dominant form to reach the semi-finals but it was closer than the 3-1 win over Japan suggested. The Swedes deserved their victory over the hosts with their pace and athleticism, but it could have been different. Sweden had a penalty awarded with the assistance of VAR, while Japan saw a penalty awarded and then the decision reversed by VAR.
57 – Until Miedema’s star turn, it had been 57 years since a player last scored double figures at a single men’s or women’s Olympic tournament with Hungary’s Ferenc Bene netting 12 times in 1964.
“I don’t know, I can’t give you that answer now, there’s so much going through my head. I’m very emotional. I just ask people not to point the finger at anyone. If you have to point the finger at someone, point it at me - I’m used to it.” Brazil superstar Marta when asked about her Brazil future
Semi-finals USA-Canada Kashima Stadium, 17:00 (local time) Australia-Sweden International Stadium Yokohama, 20:00 (local time)
KASHIMA, JAPAN - JULY 30: Alanna Kennedy #14 of Team Australia celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the Women's Quarter Final match between Great Britain and Australia on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kashima Stadium on July 30, 2021 in Kashima, Ibaraki, Japan. (Photo by Hector Vivas - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
KASHIMA, JAPAN - JULY 30: Alanna Kennedy #14 of Team Australia scores their side's first goal past Ellie Roebuck #1 of Team Great Britain during the Women's Quarter Final match between Great Britain and Australia on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kashima Stadium on July 30, 2021 in Kashima, Ibaraki, Japan. (Photo by Hector Vivas - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)