US women’s football team began their gold quest with a solid start against New Zealand and scored their 12th straight Olympic match victory. Hosts Brazil also turned in a good performance and opened their campaign with an emphatic win over China. French women, who have been billed as the tournament favorites, trounced Colombia 4-0 and signaled their gold medal intentions. Germany and Sweden also won their opening league games on Wednesday but disappointment came Australia’s way in their match against Canada. Despite looking a better team for most part, the Matildas lost to the 10-women Canadian team. With every team needing to play just two more games in the league phase, the first-day losers will only have a limited opportunity to make it to the knock-out phase.
Defending champions USA were a class apart against New Zealand in their first Group G match at the Rio Games on August 3. New Zealand put up a brave fight but those efforts were not enough against, arguably, the best women’s team in the world. Americans dominated the match played at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, where Carli Lloyd took them ahead with a 9th minute header from a cross by Tobin Heath. Just after the break, USA scored another goal, when Alex Morgan produced a low shot from inside of the penalty area to complete the 2-0 victory.
Hosts Brazil were equally dominant in their Group E match against China at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian star performer Marta didn’t score any of the goals in the 3-0 victory but her work in the field inspired teammates Monica, Andressa Alves and Cristiane. Brazil led the first half with Monica’s 36th minute goal and Alves made in 2-0 in the 59th. However, the most dangerous was Cristiane, who finished the 3-0 win with her 90th minute goal.
In the earlier inaugural match at the same venue, Sweden and South Africa played in the virtually empty stadium. Sweden won the match 1-0 win over South Africa but vast stretches of unoccupied seats would have embarrassed organizers. Both teams looked equally matched until South African goalkeeper Roxanne Barker fumbled with a cross in the 76th minute and Swedish woman Nilla Fischer happened to be nearby to make good the god-sent opportunity.
In another Group G match at Belo Horizonte, France went ahead in 2nd minute against Colombia through an own goal by their opponents. Eugenie Le Sommer’s low cross couldn’t find any of her teammate but Colombian Mads Toppel turned the ball into her own net. France raced out to a 3-0 half-time lead with Le Sommer scoring in the 14th minute and Camille Abily in the 42nd. Le Bleus were never troubled any time in the match and completed the 4-0 rout of Colombia with the 82nd minute goal by Amel Majri.
Another resounding 6-1 victory was recorded on Wednesday, when Germany beat Zimbabwe 6-1 in the other Group F match at Sao Paulo. The Germans led 2-0 at halftime with goals from Sara Daebritz and Alexandra Popp in 22nd and 36th minutes respectively. Zimbabwe pulled one back in 50th minute through Kudakwashe Basopo but Germany continued their assault on Africans with Melanie Behringer scoring twice in 53rd and 78th minutes and Melanie Leupolz hammering one in the 83rd. Germany completed the 6-1 rout with a 90th minute own goal by Eunice Chibanda.
Also at Sao Paulo, Australia met with disappointment by losing 0-2 against Canada. The Australian women had arrived in Brazil earlier for preparing themselves for the Games but they began by conceding the fastest ever goal in Olympic women’s football history inside 20 seconds. It happened with a defensive error from the Australians. A weak pass from Laura Alleway to her defensive partner Alanna Kennedy allowed Canadian veteran Christine Sinclair to pounce on the ball. She dodged a defender and sent the ball across. Janine Beckie had absolutely no trouble in sliding the ball into the goal. The early setback demoralized the Australians and although they improved their level during the match, they couldn’t find the equalizer. A red-card for Canada brought them down to 10 women but they held well against the consistent Australian attack. In the 80th minute, Sinclair sealed Australia’s fate with Canada running away to a 2-0 victory.
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