CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s women’s football team thrilled a near sell-out crowd at the Olympic Stadium by trouncing Sweden 5-1 to reach the knockout stage with a game in hand.
Two goals each from Beatriz and Marta plus another from Cristiane were more than enough to see off the shell-shocked Europeans in Group E and cap a tremendous night for the hosts in front of 43,424 happy fans.
Lotta Schelin scored a late consolation for Sweden. Even the home fans applauded.
This victory followed Brazil’s opening 3-0 win against China and raised further their hopes of a medal this month, where once the Brazilian public thought it may have been more reliable to focus their support on the men’s side – who drew a blank in their own opening game against South Africa on Thursday.
Brazil are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals alongside the Canada and the world and Olympic champions from the United States.
The US remain favourites to clinch gold – for a fourth successive time – despite being tested by a skilful France in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirão. Ultimately the Americans came out on top 1-0, thanks to Carli Lloyd’s strike on the hour mark – her 90th international goal.
Keeper Hope Solo extended her clean sheet record to 103 games in her 20oth match.
Jill Ellis’ side now top Group G with six points while later in the day New Zealand pulled level on France with three points after they overcame Colombia 1-0.
Amber Hearn scored her side’s only goal in what was only New Zealand’s second win in Olympic history. The Oceanic side even survived the sending off of Abby Erceg two minutes from time.
Group F almost saw an early upset when Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord put Australia 2-0 up against European champions Germany.
However, Silva Neid’s side fought back with Sara Dabritz scoring just before half-time and then a late equaliser from Saskia Bartusiak spared Gemany’s blushes as the match ended 2-2.
That result put Canada in the driving seat though as they comfortably saw off Olympic debutants Zimbabwe 3-1 at the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.
Janine Beckie scored a brace to take her 2016 Olympic tally to three while Christine Sinclair converted a penalty after Diane Matheson was brought down to register her tenth Olympic career goal.
Mavis Chirandu scored a late consolation for Zimbabwe to the delight of the country’s fans among the 30,000 spectators.
The second round of matches have seen a vast improvement in the attendances, perhaps boosted by the positive reaction received around Brazil from Friday’s opening ceremony at the Maracana.
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