Women’s football at Brasilia on Friday saw its biggest upset, when 4-time gold medalists USA lost to Sweden on penalties. The two teams scored one goal each in second half and no more goals could accrue in extra time. In the ensuing penalty shoot-out, USA missed twice and Lisa Dahlkvist scored the decisive goal for Sweden to corner the limelight. In Belo Horizonte, another match ended in shoot-out with hosts Brazil edging out Australia 7-6. Now Sweden and Brazil will go to Maracana to take on one another for a place in the final on August 16. In two other quarterfinals, Canada beat France 1-0 at Sao Paulo and Germany needed Melanie Behringer’s brilliance to defeat China 1-0 at Salvador. The second semifinal between Canada and Germany will be played at Belo Horizonte also on August 16.
US women’s dream of winning their fifth football gold was shattered on Friday. After women football’s inaugural event at Atlanta in 1996, this was the first time that USA played Sweden. Pia Sundhage had played for Sweden in that match, which the Americans won 2-1. On Friday, Sundhage was once again in action in a different role. She was busy masterminding Sweden’s revenge victory over USA from sidelines as the coach. When it was all over, no one could have enjoyed Swedish victory more than Sundhage. The fast-paced first half remained goalless, despite USA enjoying a larger share of ball possession. While USA pressed hard at times, Sweden threatened US goal on counter-attacks. There was some setback for Sweden, when Rolfo left the field in 15th minute to be replaced by Stina Blackstenius. Even after halftime, Sweden kept frustrating US forwards by solid defense. However, it was Sweden, who went ahead in 61st minute. Lisa Dahlkvist produced a wonderful through pass to Blackstenius, who scored from a well-directed low shot. Until 13 minutes remaining in the match, Sweden looked like certain winners but their advantage was nullified in 77th minute. Alex Morgan pounced on Tobin Heath’s lofted ball that came to her after striking Jessica Samuelsson’s head. The American ensured that USA got the equalizer. With remaining regulation and extra time ending goalless, the match was decided on penalties. USA lost by missing two chances, and though Sweden also missed once, they went through with a 4-3 score.
A full house watched hosts Brazil take on Australia in Belo Horizonte. Though the match ended goalless after 120 minutes, Brazil looked a dangerous side. If they couldn’t score, it was because of Australia’s brilliant goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who thwarted the potent Brazilian attack. Late in the 90-minutes regulation time, both teams had goal-scoring opportunities but while Australian Chloe Logarzo’s attempt hit the crossbar, Lydia Williams made an out-of-the-world save on a close-range shot to deny Brazil. When extra time also ended goalless, it was time for penalties. In the dramatic shoot-out, Brazilian custodian Barbara stole the show. Both teams converted from their first four penalties, but when Brazilian star Marta missed the penalty on 9th shot, Australia came tantalizingly close to winning the match. It was here that Barbara came to Brazil’s rescue. She saved Katrina Gorry’s next attempt and after Brazilian Tamires scored next, Barbara made another save to deny Alanna Kennedy and won the day for Brazil in a 7-6 score.
At Sao Paulo, Canada defeated France 1-0 in a match severely lacking goal-scoring chances. Regardless, star player Eugenie Le Sommer was outstanding in France’s attack despite failing to score. The crucial goal for Canada came from Sophie Schmidt in 56th minute as a culmination of Beckie’s superb move. The lively Canadian lifted the ball over Frenchwoman Sakina Karchaoui’s head and ran forward to send a lobbed cross for Schimdt, who made no mistake. Canadians next take on Germany, who had lost 1-2 to them at Group Stage. Now Germans will seek retribution at Belo Horizonte, after their hard-earned 1-0 quarterfinal win over China at Salvador. Both sides played neck-to-neck football but Germany found it difficult to penetrate the tight Chinese defense, although Leonie Maier, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Alexandra Popp came close at one time or another. After the goalless first half, German attack and Chinese defense continued. The only miss by Chinese goalkeeper Zhou Lina came in 76th minute, when Melanie Behringer took advantage of a bouncing ball to shoot from 25 yards with Lina completely unprepared. After this goal, Germany wrested control but conceded a penalty in 83rd minute, when Maier brought down Wang Shuang in the box. However Germany went through, when luck deserted the Chinese with Shuang’s powerful shot hitting the right post, despite German goalkeeper diving the wrong way.