KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: It has all ended in tears for Brazil’s women footballers. After a shootout defeat by Sweden in Maracana they may still win an Olymic bronze medal. But they already have two silvers. It was gold they had promised themselves in front of their own fans.
No-one wanted it more than their captain and inspiration Marta. She had missed her kick in the quarter-final shootout victory over Australia. That had been Brazil’s first. This time she led the way, scoring with the first as a gesture of leadership and encouragement.
But when Sweden keeper Hedvig Lindahl saved the fifth kick, from Andressa, it was left to Lisa Dahlqvist to provide the coup de grace, as she had done previously for the Swedes similarly against the outgoing champions from the United States.
In simple Olympic Games statistics Sweden beat Brazil 4-3 on penalties following a 0-0 draw after extra time. Not such a headline, perhaps, in other Games. But this is Brazil. Football matters. So the duty of redemption rests with the men in their own imminent semi-final, also in Maracana, against Honduras.
Sweden’s women, managed by Pia Sundhage who guided the US to success at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, will play Germany back in Maracana on Friday with gold at stake. The European champions defeated Canada comparatively comfortably bhy 2-0 in Belo Horizonte with a goal in each half from Melanie Behringer and Sara Dabritz.
Marta had warned her team-mates beforehand not to be complacent, just because they hd beaten Sweden 5-1 in their second group game. As it turned out, those were the last goals Brazil scored. They were held goalless by South Africa in an academic third match then goalless by Australia in the quarter-final they had won on penalties.
Seeking to break the jinx, they swarmed all over Sweden for the vast majority of the 120 minutes but created no clearcut opportunities. The closest they came was in the last minute of stoppage time in normal time when veteran midfielder Formiga’s diving header from point-blank range was anticipated brilliantly by Lindahl.
The match had begun so promisingly. In the 22nd minute Debinha, who plays her club football in China with Dalian Quanjian, had a header tipped over the bar by Lindahl. Then Dahlqvist, back in defence, glanced a right-wing corner from Marta across the face of her own goal.
Sweden relied on a strategy of counter-attack but managed precious few. On the one first-half occasion striker Stina Blackstenius escaped, down the right, no-one had chased in support to convert her short pass across the goalmouth.
Coach Vadao brought Andressa into the Brazil midfield for the second half in search of more creativity but the pattern of the game remained unchanged. Indeed Stina Blackstenius, in another breakaway, should have done better that pop a soft shot into the hands of Brazilian keeper Barbara.
So the game ran on, with no real chances until Formiga was out of luck in the last minute.
In extra time Brazil, tiring badly but and still propelled by the crowd and desperation, had two quick-fire efforts blocked by defenders. At the other end some muddled defending ended ‘only’ with Swedish captain Lotta Schelin shooting into the side net.
Hence to penaltes. Marta and Schelin scored; Cristiane and Kosovare Asllani had shots saved by Barbara and Lindahl respectively; Andressa Alves, Caroline Seger, Rafaelle and Nilla Fischer all scored. Then up stepped Andressa . . . which is when the dream was shattered.
Rafaela Silva, Brazil’s gold-winning judoka, had stood up in the VIP box before the shootout to keep the excitement and the belief alive . . . but not for very long.
RIO 2016 football tournament
Today (Tue, Aug 16) – semi-finals: Brazil 0, Sweden 0 (3-4 on pens: Rio Maracana); Germany 2, Canada 0 (Belo Horizonte).
Fri, Aug 19 – Bronze medal play-off: Brazil v Canada (Sao Paulo, 13.00). Gold medal final: Sweden v Germany (Rio Maracana, (17.30).
Tomorrow (Wed, Aug 17) – Semi-finals: Nigeria v Germany (Sao Paulo, 16.00); Brazil v Honduras (Rio Maracana, 13.00).
Sat, Aug 29 – Bronze play-off: Belo Horizonte (13.00). Gold medal final: Rio Maracana (17.30).
Aug 03 – Gp E: Sweden 1, S Africa 0; Brazil 3, China 0. Gp F: Canada 2, Australia 0; Zimbabwe 1, Germany 6. Gp G: US 2, New Zealand 0; France 4, Colombia 0.
Aug 06 – Gp E (Rio, Olimpico): S Africa 0, China 2; Brazil 5, Sweden 1. Gp F (Sao Paulo): Canada 3, Zimbabwe 1; Germany 2, Australia 2. Gp G (Belo Horizonte): United States 1, France 0; Colombia 0, New Zealand 1.
Tue, Aug 09 – Gp E: S Africa 0, Brazil 0 (Manaus); China 0, Sweden 0 (Brasilia). Final standings (all three matches): Brazil 7pts, China 4 (gd -1), Sweden 4 (gd -3), South Africa 1.
Gp F: Australia 6, Zimbabwe 1 (Salvador); Germany 1, Canada 2 (Brasilia). Final standings (all three matches): Canada 9pts, Germany 4 (gd +4), Australia 4 (gd +3), Zimbabwe 0.
Gp G: Colombia 2, United States2 (Manaus); New Zealand 0, France 3 (Salvador). Final standings (all three matches): US 7pts, France 6, New Zealand 3, Colombia 1.
Fri, Aug 12 – quarter-finals: US 1, Sweden 1 after extra time (3-4 on penalties: Brasilia); China 0, Germany 1 (Salvador); Canada 1, France 0 (Sao Paulo); Brazil 0, Australia 0 after extra time (7-6 on penalties: Belo Horizonte).
Aug 4 – Gp A: Iraq 0, Denmark 0; Brazil 0, S Africa 0. Gp B: Sweden 2, Colombia 2; Nigeria 5, Japan 4. Gp C: Mexico 2, Germany 2; Fiji 0, S Korea 8. Gp D: Honduras 3, Algeria 2; Portugal 2, Argentina 0.
Aug 7 – Gp A (Brasilia): Denmark 1, South Africa 0; Brazil 0, Iraq 0. Gp B (Manaus): Sweden 0, Nigeria 1; Japan 2, Colombia 2. Gp C (Salvador): Fiji 1, Mexico 5; Germany 3, S Korea 3. Gp D (Rio, Olimpico): Honduras 1, Portugal 2; Argentina 2, Algeria 1.
Aug 10 – Gp A: Denmark 0, Brazil 4 (Salvador); S Africa 1, Iraq 1 (Sao Paulo). Fjnal standings: Brazil 5pts; Denmark 4pts; Iraq 3pts; S Africa 2.
Gp B: Colombia 2, Nigeria 0 (Sao Paulo); Japan 1, Sweden 0 (Salvador). Final standings (all three matches): Nigeria 6pts; Colombia 5pts; Japan 4pts; Sweden 1pt
Gp C : Germany 10, Fiji 0 (Belo Horizonte); S Korea 1, Mexico 0 (Brasilia). Final standings (all three matches): S Korea 7pts; Germany 5pts; Mexico 4pts; Fiji 0.
Gp D: Algeria 1, Portugal 1 (Belo Horizonte); Argentina 1, Honduras 1 (Brasilia). Final standings (all three matches): Portugal 7pts; Honduras 4 (gd 0); Argentina 4 (gd -1); Algeria 1.
Sat, Aug 13 – Quarter-finals: Portugal 0, Germany 4 (Brasilia); Nigeria 2, Denmark 0 (Salvador); S Korea 0, Honduras 1 (Belo Horizonte); Brazil 2, Colombia 0 (Sao Paulo).