The stars illuminating Tokyo 2020

  • Goal-fest highlighted Tokyo 2020 group stage

  • Several goalscorers grabbed the headlines

  • A look at some of the stars shining brightest in Japan

The Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 has more than delivered to date with some high-quality football matched by an extraordinary goal avalanche. Seventy-five goals have been scored in just 18 matches with several goalscoring milestones eclipsed. Several players have shone in front of goal, but it is also a similar story at the other end of the field. Ahead of a mouth-watering quarter-final schedule, runs the rule over some of the best performers of the group stage. The African queen Has there ever been a player to make a more startling impact than Barbra Banda. In six previous women’s Olympic Football Tournaments until Tokyo 2020, only one player had managed to score six goals. That was goalscoring royalty Christine Sinclair in 2012, achieved in six matches. Yet Barbra Banda equalled that mark in just 180 minutes – some feat for a raw 21-year-old representing a nation ranked 104. Banda’s powerhouse running, game-sense, eye for goal and sheer hunger to succeed means we have surely witnessed the birth of a superstar, one that is set to grace the game for years to come.

Brilliant orange Banda’s six-goal haul was matched later on the same matchday by Vivianne Miedema, with the prolific Netherlands’ striker ultimately extending that tally to eight after three matches. Her four goals against Zambia on the opening matchday equalled Birgit Prinz’s 2004 single-match record, with China PR forward Wang Shuang later also joining the exclusive club. The 25-year-old, who plays the role of a traditional Dutch No9, scored a wide variety of goals and her textbook turn-and-finish from the top of the penalty area against Brazil was arguably the best.

Catley’s precision At the other end of the pitch, Australia’s attacking fullbacks Steph Catley and Ellie Carpenter are a major outlet for the Green and Gold going forward. Catley has overcome several injury problems over the past season to rediscover her best form, providing a tournament-high six scoring opportunities from set-pieces. Her whipped delivery from the left is always a joy to watch with star striker Sam Kerr the main target.

Golden Bronze Great Britain fullback is another modern fullback offering a key source of attack for her team. The reigning Best Women’s Player of the Year provided assists for all three of Ellen White goals as Team GB won their opening two matches to reach the quarter-finals with a match to spare. For all Bronze’s attacking renown she is also driven by her defensive role, telling “I get more satisfaction out of doing that [preventing goals] than providing assists.”

Sweden’s big occasion gem Like Miedema, Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius is another highly consistent European goalscorer. And like Miedema, Blackstenius boasts a remarkable goals-per-minute tally at Tokyo 2020. Despite only starting one match and being rested entirely from the group finale - a testament to Sweden’s attacking depth - the striker has nabbed three crucial goals in barely 90 minutes of action. A double against USA is further evidence of her taste for the big occasion having netted in the Rio 2016 final and in the France 2019 quarter-final.

Debinha thriving among quality Pia Sundhage’s Brazil look more than capable of securing a medal at Tokyo 2020 with their attacking intent clear. Marta’s creative contribution has, as always, been at a high level, but Debinha has also been a key figure in attack. Sharing the forward line with Beatriz, and with the impressive Ludmila supporting off the bench, Debinha has been offered the platform to display her dazzling repertoire of skills. Goalscorer in each of the opening two matches, Debinha made just a brief cameo on Wednesday and upcoming quarter-final opponents Canada underestimate her at their peril.