TOKYO: The United States needed penalties to defeat European champions Netherlands on a day of quarter-final drama at the Olympic Games women’s football tournament.
Canada also progressed with a tense shootout win to set-up a North American semi-final while Australia edged Great Britain in extra time and hosts Japan said farewell after being outgunned by Sweden.
The Americans’ ability to find a dose of reserve was once again on display as the world champions came from behind against Netherlands.
The in-form Dutch looked more than capable of overturning the result of the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final but were denied by US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
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 with a last decisive spot kick from Megan Rapinoe.
Miedema’s consolation was ending up with a single tournament record of 10 goals.
This was the first time a player had reached double figures in Olympic football since Hungary’s Ferenc Bene netted 12 times in 1964.
Canada’s resilience was again on display in Miyagi as the Canucks held off Brazil in a match of few 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 end of the shoot-out to take her side through to a third consecutive semi-final.
Marta (13 goals) and Christine Sinclair (12) thus both failed to match Cristiane’s Olympic scoring record of 14.
Great Britain’s defeat by Australia was one of the most memorable in the tournament as the Matildas came back from 2-1 down with a last-minute goal to send the match into extra time in a contest that had spectacular goals, penalty misses and endless entertainment.
Ellen White scored a hat-trick for Team GB but ended on the losing side as counterpart Sam Kerr hit a double and Aussie teenager Mary Fowler underlined her prodigy status with a crucial goal.
In the remaining tie Sweden proved too strong, quick and athletic for Japan though the hosts had a lot of the ball and fought back well after falling behind early on.
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.