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Olympic Recap: Gold Medal Match U.S. vs. Japan

by JJ Duke

It was a scene that every person jammed inside Wembley Stadium wanted on Thursday evening in London. For the United States, the night represented redemption after a heartbreaking loss to their opponents in the World Cup Finals a year ago. For Japan, they could do what no team has done before, win an Olympic Gold Medal a year removed from a World Cup victory, against the same team no less. And for over 80,000 spectators at the iconic home of the English National team, the ideal match-up of the tournament was playing on the pitch below them. But after an intriguing 90 minutes of soccer, the United States won their fourth Olympics Gold Medal by defeating Japan by a score of 2-1. The USA were backed by a two-goal performance from Carli Lloyd and despite giving up a goal in the second half to Yuki Ogimi, it was a great match to watch for the fans and a memorable occasion for the players on the field.

Going into the match, Pia Sundhage made one change to the side that defeated Canada so dramatically at the end of extra time in Manchester on Monday. Shannon Boxx, who recovered from a hamstring injury in the first match for the USA against France, replaced Lauren Cheney in the midfield. On the other side, Norio Sasaki marched out the same lineup he did on Monday against France in the semifinals. The early action went in favor of the U.S. as a high-pressured defense forced Japan into some early errors. The first U.S. goal came only eight minutes into the match as Kelley O’Hara sent Tobin Heath down the left flank with a good early ball. Heath drilled a low cross near-post toward Alex Morgan, and her touch was taken away from goal toward the end-line. With a chipped ball to the back post, Carli Lloyd beat not only her defenders but a waiting Abby Wambach as she powered her header home to give the U.S. a 1-nil lead.

The momentum quickly shifted back toward Japan as 10 minutes later Nahomi Kawasumi crossed a ball toward Shinobu Ohno, who powered a header only to see U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo pull out a stunning save as she tipped the ball onto the crossbar. It seemed that everything was going Japan’s way for awhile until the 26th minute when an Aya Miyama free kick seemed to have struck Heath’s extended arm inside the box, but referee Bibiana Steinhaus, who was in charge of the match between these two teams last year in the World Cup Final, did not award the penalty. The Japan luck almost went from bad to worse because not more than a minute later a driven cross from Amy LePeilbet was redirected by Azusa Iwashimizu past her goalkeeper only to be saved by the post. The rest of the half was dominated by Japan though, gaining two good opportunities including Miyama hitting the crossbar from a teed up ball by Ohno. But the half finished at 1-0 to the U.S.

The second half started like the first half ended with Japan dominating the possession of the game, but that was all to be gone for none as Lloyd scored her second of the night in the 54th minute. The midfielder made a great run down the middle of the field and similarly to the goal she scored against France that turned out to be the game-winner, put it on her right foot and blistered the shot past Miho Fukumoto and just inside the far post. This was Lloyd’s second goal of the match and third in her career in Olympic Gold Medal Finals, the first came back in 2008 when she rifled a long distance shot against Brazil in extra-time that would eventually be the game-winner that night.

Japan wasn’t quite done yet as in the 63rd minute, they pulled a goal back through Ogimi to make the score 2-1. Miyama threaded a great pass to Ohno, and as Solo came out to cut the angle down Ohno slotted the ball back to Homare Sawa. Her shot though was saved off the line by Christie Rampone, her second save off the line on the night. But after the defense scrambled the ball away from goal, Sawa hit a second shot only to find its way to Ogimi, who was on the doorstep and closed the gap to one.

After that goal, Japan gained a second wind, and only a couple great plays by Solo off of Miyama free kicks, the score remained 2-1 through 80 minutes. Lloyd had an opportunity to put the game away with another long distance effort, but this one flew over the bar. The biggest play of the night though happened in the 83rd minute, when Rampone got pick-pocketed in the back by second half substitute Mana Iwabuchi and was alone with Solo with Ohno on Iwabuchi’s right, she went for goal. But not to be denied, Solo made a flying save to her left and parried the shot away from goal. That was to be the last real chance for either side and after the whistle blew, the U.S. won their third straight Olympic Gold Medal, while Japan who played admirably in the match, received the silver medal.

It was a fantastic game of soccer to be fair, both teams left their all on the field and at the end of the day, it was the U.S. who took advantage of their chances despite being out possessed by Japan nearly 60% to 40%. Lloyd was fantastic on the night and all tournament as well, scoring four goals and possibly putting to rest some of her doubters. Solo, despite not really having to do with much of the action during the tournament before the finals, came up big on the night, exactly like she was four years ago on the same stage. And this was the first time in any major tournament since 1999 that the U.S. recorded a clean sweep of the competition, a 6-0-0 record, and scored 16 goals in the process, a new tournament record. And you have to give Japan a lot of credit as well, they put in a game effort and played their traditional technical style and pestered the U.S. goal with shots. And they were graceful in defeat and were expressively happy to win the silver medal.

But the game effort of the night had to go to the Canada Women’s team bus driver, who after their 1-0 victory earlier in the day against France, had to make the two-plus hour drive from Coventry, and had to get around the London traffic but got the Canada women to the Wembley stadium in time for them to receive the Bronze medal, one that will surely lift the country as they prepare to host the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the next major international tournament on the Women’s program.

Olympic Recap: Bronze Medal Match, Canada vs. France

by Ciara McCormack

One didn’t know what to expect coming into the France-Canada game. Both teams were coming off emotional semifinal losses that battered the teams as much mentally as they did physically, with both playing games that seemed worthy of an appearance in the Olympic finals.

Yet the two halves of the game could not have been any more different.

The first half was arguably either a chess match as the teams felt each other out, or a product of two tired teams playing in their sixth game in two weeks. There were few chances as the Canadians were organized defensively, and were playing a composed game keeping possession through their back line but had little connection between their midfield and forward lines. On the other hand, the French did little to play to their strengths, knocking the ball around too slowly and doing little to expose spaces for the speed of Elodie Thomis. The only legitimate chances of the half came midway through with Christine Sinclair firing over the bar after a delicate outside of the foot pass from defender Rhian Wilkinson, and Thomis doing the same at the stroke of half time.

If the first half could put people to sleep, the second half was like an orchestra that started to play, whose momentum continued to build and build until a final crescendo at the cessation of the game.

The French began the second half, making it clear that they were hitting their rhythm, finally beginning to play to their strengths with quick ball movement, runs into space and releasing players to showcase their technique and taking the Canadians on 1 v 1 down the line. Thomis showed the skill and speed that has made her a danger all tournament, as she made a run down the right, and laid a pass into the path of Louisa Necib. Erin McLeod who had a solid game in net for the Canadians, held on to the ball off of the deflected drive.

France Coach Bruno Bini began to play his hand, grabbing onto the offensive momentum of his team, putting in both Camille Abily and Eugenie Le Sommer as the half progressed. Soon after Thomis showed her determination in having a hand in the result of the match, as she latched onto a ball that had been flicked on and drove through the Canadian defense half-volleying an effort off the cross bar and over. Chances came again and again for the French, first Abily in the 65th minute whose shot bounced off the post, and then Le Sommer, who wasted some great work by Thiney to release her in front of goal, only to see her effort fired over. Corine Franco seemed to finally give France the edge beating McLeod in the 71st minute, but Desiree Scott, who has had a fantastic tournament for the Canadians, showed her awareness in jumping off her post to get behind McLeod and clear the ball off the line. Franco again had more chances off of corner kicks, but put both of her efforts off target.

Yet if France played the metaphorical instruments for the entire second half, the Canadians snuck in to hit the final, most important note in the form of Diana Matheson. The most dimunitive player on the field, and one of Canada’s most consistent over the past decade (crucial assist to Charmaine Hooper in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over top team China in the 2003 World Cup, anyone?), showed her poise in shocking the French and doing what the French couldn’t do the entire match, as she calmly put the ball past Sarah Bouhaddi, latching on to a blocked Sophie Schmidt shot, eight yards from goal.

It could be said that the Canadians feeling robbed by the United States in their last game committed their own robbery against the stunned French. France outshot the Canadians 18-4, and the Canadians proved the beauty of the game, as their only shot on goal in the game was the one that mattered, as it sent Canada home with their first Olympic team medal since 1936.

Olympic Recap: U.S. vs. Canada

by Tiffany Weimer

In my previous post about the France vs. Japan game I stated that it was one of the most intense women’s soccer games in the history of life.

Little did I know that I would actually watch the most intense women’s soccer game in the history of life not long after I typed those words.

The U.S. Canada game was one for the history books and I’m not just talking about women’s soccer, but soccer in general. (Yeah, I said it).

The U.S. ended up winning the game 4-3 in a game that resembled a heavyweight bout that seemed to be over multiple times before another seemingly knock out punch was delivered.

Although the U.S. seemed to have the run of play in the opening part of the half, Christine Sinclair scored her first of three in the 22nd minute after Melissa Tancredi controlled a Marie-Eve Nault entry pass and delivered a ball into the path of Sinclair. Canada’s all-time leading scorer took two touches past the American defenders and struck the ball authoritatively past a helpless Hope Solo. The goal seemed to ignite the Canadians, and swing the balance of play.

The Canadians went into the half up 1-0 over the Americans.

The beginning of the second half showed again a determined Canadian side that the U.S. were struggling to break down, until the 55th minute. With a Canadian defender abandoning the front post to defend the two players the U.S. had at the corner, Megan Rapinoe took advantage and whipped the ball in near post. In a mess of players, the ball caromed past a stunned Canadian side, leveling the game at 1.

Yet Sinclair seemed intent on making the night hers. She struck brilliantly in the 67th minute off of a Diana Matheson corner kick, out-jumping the U.S. defenders and heading the ball into the top corner.

Rapinoe replied again with a brilliant strike from outside of the 18-yard box. She was given just an inch and she took it, hitting the ball off the far post and in at the 70th minute.

Three minutes later, it was Sinclair again. Yes, again.

In the 73rd minute she headed home a cross from strike partner Tancredi, past Solo to put the Canadians up 3-2.

In the 78th minute, a free kick was awarded inside the Canadian’s 18-yard box after goalkeeper Erin McLeod was called for holding the ball more than six seconds.

The six-second rule states that the goalkeeper must release the ball after holding it in her hands for six seconds, a call that is not made often.

That very free kick led to a Canadian handball in the box and a penalty kick to the U.S.

In the 80th minute, Wambach placed her penalty kick calmly into the corner, sending it past McLeod and putting the U.S. level with the Canadians for the third time in the game.

The score remained 3-3 as the final whistle blew, sending the game into overtime.

The overtime was much of the same, with chance after chance for both teams.

It only seemed fitting that the game would finish in the last seconds of overtime, as it seemed destined for penalty kicks. A Heather O’Reilly cross was met by the head of Alex Morgan, who had disappeared from the score sheet since the U.S.’ first game against France, and in the 123rd minute of the game, the U.S. put the final dagger in the Canadians.

Pia Sundhage’s side came out on top of one of the most gruelling, intense games the soccer world has ever seen, and it is safe to say that an old rivalry has been renewed. Canada looks to be a shadow of the side that was hammered 4-0 in front of a home crowd in the CONCACAF final just a few short months ago, and one now capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world.

The U.S. will face Japan in the Gold Medal game while the Canadians will play France in the Bronze Medal game.

Thursday August 9th

8am ET: Canada vs. France
2:45pm ET: United States vs. Japan

Olympic Recap: France vs. Japan

by Tiffany Weimer

In what can go down as arguably one of the most intense women’s soccer games in the history of life (dramatic, I know), Japan just barely pulled out a 2-1 win over France in the first semifinal match of the day.

The first half was a battle of two very technical teams. The French had more chances, but Japan were able to capitalize first.

A mistake by French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi in the 32nd minute would change the course of the game. After a free kick was played into the box Bouhaddi got her hands to it, but was unable to keep it as Yuki Ogmi put it away.

Japan went into the second half up 1-0 with the gold medal game in their reach. Just minutes after the break, Japan extended their lead in the 49th minute off a Mizuho Sakaguchi goal. A poor giveaway in the back, followed by a foul to try to make up for it led to an Aya Miyami free kick.

A perfectly placed ball, was met by the head of Sagakuchi as she redirected it to the far post, over the outstretched arms of Bouhaddi.

At 2-0, the game seemed to be in the hands of Japan.

But then a spark was lit in the form of Louisa Necib. Necib cranked it up a notch and her team followed suit, a great example of what one player can do for a team.

France was the more dangerous team in the last 25 minutes of the match as players pushed forward, pressured the Japanese defense and created several good scoring opportunities.

In the 76th minute it paid off. Marie-Laure Delie played Elodie Thomis down the right side and with a touch to the end line, cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Le Sommer was waiting to get her hips around the ball, sending it straight down the middle, out of the reach of goalkeeper Miho Fukomoto.

Three minutes later, it was Le Sommer again, cutting up defenders in the box, making the Japanese defense look unorganized, and drawing a penalty kick with a foul committed by Sakaguchi, the goal scorer.

Captain Elise Bussaglia stepped up for her country to take control of what was to be the most important moment in her team’s history.

As she approached the ball and opened her hips to strike, goalkeeper Fukomoto was already beat to her left, but Bussaglia’s shot missed just wide to the right as everyone watching held their breath for just a few seconds.

Still 2-1 in Japan’s favor, France did not give up. Japan’s defense would bend time and time again, but did not break. Fukomoto came up huge for her team, making save after save.

Japan will go on to the Gold Medal game to take on the winner of Canada vs. the U.S.

France will play in the Bronze Medal game.

Olympic Recap: Brazil vs. Japan

by Ciara McCormack
In another highly anticipated match-up, this time at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Brazil-Japan did not disappoint pitting the clinical Japanese against the flamboyant Brazilians.
The Brazilians looked the more dangerous side in the opening part of the first half as Jorge Barellos’ side looked like they were not dwelling on their 1-0 loss to Great Britain in their final match of the opening round. With seven corners by Brazil in the first 20 minutes alone, Japan’s goalkeeper Miho Fukomoto was forced to be sharp in net weathering the Brazilian storm. Dangerous chances that seemed to suggest that the match would fall in the South American’s favor were rampant with Renata Costa shooting over the crossbar at the 16 minute mark and the ageless Formiga firing a superb shot from distance that Fukomoto had to knock over the crossbar four minutes later.
From there the Japanese seemed to come alive, with the technical and tactical genius that Shinobu Ohno and Yuki Ogimi have shown all tournament, being brought to light orchestrated by the delightful passes of Homare Sawa. At the midpoint of the first half, Sawa released Ogimi, who sent a dangerous cross into Ohno. Ohno fired two shots in the sequence, one of which was blocked, while the second sailed high.
Sawa and Ogimi combined again minutes later, when Sawa sent a fantastic ball through to Ogimi, who escaped the Brazilian defense, and she clinically finished past the Brazilian keeper Andreia, sending the Japanese into a 1-0 lead, a lead in which they held to halftime.
In the second half, the Brazilians pushed for an equalizer, yet their penchant for relying on individualistic flair and brilliance was a contrast to the offensive teamwork and artistry that the reigning world champions put on display. This was none more evident when in the 73rd minute Marta was stripped dribbling through traffic in the middle third of the field, which led to the second Japanese goal. The Japanese showed their world-class ability to transition as one pass after Marta was stripped sent Ogimi ahead, and she sent a ball to Ohno on the right, who cut past a Brazilian defender and finished precisely into the top corner, sending the Japanese into a 2-0 lead that they did not relinquish.
With their performance, the Japanese have earned a berth in the semi-finals at Wembley Stadium, against France, who beat Sweden 2-1 in a game played earlier today.

Olympic Recap: U.S. vs. New Zealand

by JJ Duke

After a hard 90-minute battle on the St. James’ Park pitch in Newcastle, the U.S. National Team defeated New Zealand by a score of 2-0. Behind goals from Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux, the U.S. continues their dominant form in this 2012 Olympics Tournament. Through four games, they have not surrendered a goal in 346 minutes, now the longest streak in Olympics history and will move onto the semifinals back in Manchester to face Canada.

Entering the match, Head Coach Pia Sundhage made one switch bringing Tobin Heath in for Heather O’Reilly on the wing, which confused a lot of people, seeing that O’Reilly has played so well in the previous two matches. And not that Heath has done poorly at all, just figuring with needing to have good speed down the wings against the Football Ferns, O’Reilly would have thought to have gotten the nod for the start. On the other side, Tony Readings brought back in Hannah Wilkinson and Kirsty Yallop for youngsters Rosie White and Annalie Longo, both who were impressive in the previous match against Cameroon. But with Wilkinson forced to miss that match due to yellow card accumulations, you had to figure she was going to start against the U.S. regardless, especially with scoring against them back in Frisco, TX when the Football Ferns suffered a close 2-1 defeat against the U.S. in February.

The early action started out well for New Zealand but the questionable back-line for the Football Ferns was exposed quite quickly. There were multiple miscommunications between the center-back pairing of Abby Erceg and Rebecca Smith and goalkeeper Jenny Bindon throughout the match, but with a bit of luck and some good goalkeeping, they kept the U.S. off the board through the first portion of the first half. After New Zealand’s Katie Hoyle came close to challenging Hope Solo’s goal, the U.S. struck first in the 27th minute as Alex Morgan held up a couple defenders and hit a low shot-cross to the back post, as Abby Wambach slid in and buried home her fourth goal of the tournament, which put her level with Canada’s Melissa Tancredi for the scoring lead. Then, another common theme of the U.S. during this tournament came with an elaborate goal scoring celebration. The team started turning cartwheels in the corner in paying tribute to the USA’s Gabby Douglas winning the gymnastics All-Around title the day before, which the players tweeted the night before giving her the team’s backing as they watched in their hotel.

After that, it seemed that the U.S. had control of the match while New Zealand would threaten once or twice, but never really gained control of the match, as the U.S. kept hitting long balls over the top and down the flanks to great effect.

The second half provided a more physical encounter as both teams scratched for a difference-making goal. Also a key factor was the refereeing from the South American crew, as Jesica di Iorio let a lot of the play unfold including a couple non-penalty calls. And when Morgan came charging down the pitch on a 1v1, Bindon came sliding out and was met by Morgan’s knee as the attacker tried jumping over Bindon to avoid her. The contact brought Morgan down as well as knocked out Bindon but the referee blew for a drop-ball instead of a foul. On the other side, after replacing Wilkinson in the 77th minute, who played reasonably well for the Football Ferns on her return to the starting XI, Rosie White was dragged down in the box in the last 10 minutes but to no call by di Iorio as well. Despite the non-foul calls, she did keep things fairly consistent by trying to let play flow to the best of her ability and if you’re not calling anything, don’t call anything late and that’s what she did so I applaud her for that.

Possibly feeling a little woozy from the earlier collision from Bindon, Sundhage replaced Morgan for Sydney Leroux nine minutes from time, and just three minutes she ran down a long ball played on the left flank, beat Smith easily and slotted the ball home through Bindon’s legs giving the U.S. their 2-0 lead, a lead they would not look back from as the USA moved onto the semifinals.

Overall, it was a workmanlike performance from the U.S., who looked dangerous throughout the match but with some poor finishing from Morgan, who will hope that she recovers from a possible knee-knock for the semifinals on Monday, as well as some sloppy play through the midfield the score could have been much higher. But also you have to tip your hat to the New Zealand side, which did not come to play in this tournament for just playing sakes. They came out and fought for three group matches, got the result they needed and could have provided another solid result or two as well. And the great thing for Readings side, outside of Bindon who is 39 years of age, the team is relatively quite young and even a couple of players will feature in the U-20 WWC in a couple of weeks. So expect more great things to come from this side in the future with their rapid development.

Olympic Recap: France vs. Sweden

by Tiffany Weimer
France vs. Sweden

In the first quarterfinal match of the day, France and Sweden played a rematch of the third place game of the 2011 World Cup. This time though, France would be on the favorable end of the 2-1 final score line.

An 18th minute corner kick was shouldered home by Nilla Fischer to give the Swedes a promising start.

With a slick surface and the French playing a more direct attack, Sweden didn’t give away many dangerous opportunities in the first half. Sweden even had more of the possession for the first 30 minutes of the game.

In the 29th minute, a corner kick created a scramble in the box and Laura Georges was able to put it in the back of the net for the first French goal of the game and her second of the tournament.

With the scored tied at 1-1, the French started to get numbers forward more and with a free kick outside the box in the 39th minute and questionable goalkeeping from Hedvig Lindahl, Wendie Renard put France up 2-1 going into the half.

The second half saw more play through the midfield for each team as Caroline Seger for Sweden and Louisa Necib for France both got more touches going forward. Once France settled down, they were the more dangerous team.

Playing against the majority of her club team from Lyon, Sweden’s star forward Lotta Schelin wasn’t as impactful as she had been in the past.

In the end, France held on to their 2-1 lead from the first half and booked their ticket to the semifinals and a chance for a medal.

For Sweden, the loss of two starters before the Olympic games even began could have been the difference for them. An inexperienced backline and trouble marking on set pieces hurt them today.

France will face the winner of Brazil and Japan in the semifinals.

Olympic Recap: France vs. Colombia

by Matteo Marzoli

Going into the match this was a must win for France as they were tied in points with Korea DPR in their group. A win against Colombia would’ve sent them through indefinitely. As they’ve established themselves as an attacking team, the French side have scored the highest amount of goals in the tournament with seven alongside the United States. With six different players getting on the score sheet throughout the tournament Marie-Laure Delie led “le bleu” with two goals. Also Louisa Necib and Elodie Thomis contributed with two assists each in the tournament leading up to this match.

It didn’t take long for France to set the tone as they took the early lead with a beautiful curling through ball off the feet of Louisa Necib putting Thomis in a clear one on one path to goal. Thomis slotted it in by the keeper’s left side and put France ahead by one within the first ten minutes. Colombia was very lucky not to be down by at least three goals. Goalkeeper Sandra Sepulvida kept Colombia in the game as the back four seemed extremely disorganized and continuously allowed for French penetrating through passes to break them down. France were outpassing, outcrossing, and outshooting them but couldn’t find the composure in front of net to give them a comfortable enough lead.

With a half completely dominated by the French, Sepulvida established herself as the potential player of the match coming up with unbelievable saves time and time again. Louisa Necib orchestrated the French attack with multiple threatening through passes as well as composure in the middle of the park that no one else matched. She was definitely France’s most impacting and productive player.

As the game ended we saw an entirely different Colombian side in the second half, but the lack of intelligence in front of net hurt them and they couldn’t get the goal they needed. A much lazier and disorganized France won by a 1-0 margin, but with a handful of missed chances in the first half and a very dodgy back four in the second. France should’ve considered themselves very lucky to leave with a win.

Player of the Match: Colombia’s Sepulvida and French Louisa Necib

Olympic Recap: Day Three

by Tiffany Weimer

Day three concluded group play for all teams and determined exactly what the quarterfinals would look like. Here’s a recap of what happened:

Japan vs. South Africa

If world rankings had anything to do with the outcome of matches, a 0-0 draw between Japan (3) and South Africa (61) would never happen.

But as we found out later in the day, there was a plan behind Japan’s lack of scoring:

According to the Associated Press:

“It was the coach’s instruction that we wanted to stay in Cardiff and come second in the group, so I knew that the bench were getting information about the other match and I had been told,” Japan defender Azusa Iwashimizu said. “It is something we needed to do in order to get a medal.”

That would explain why seven of the 11 starters from the previous game were on the bench and why they were lobbing balls in from the flanks as if they were a bigtime aerial team all of a sudden.

Disheartening to say the least. Japan was hoping to avoid France, but with an unexpected turn of events, Brazil lost to Great Britain and now Japan will face Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Nevertheless, South Africa stuck to their game plan and did everything they could to not allow Japan to score.

In doing so, South Africa will go home with their first-ever Olympic point.

My opinion: regardless if Japan were trying to score or not, I don’t think that’s something a coach or a player should admit to the press. South Africa needed that tie for much more than to play a less difficult team and to stay in the same city and my hope is that it doesn’t affect the support they receive once they return home.

U.S. vs. North Korea

In another chippy match for the U.S., North Korea came out looking to clinch their place in the next round, while the U.S. had already advanced. A 25th minute goal by Abby Wambach ensured the U.S. would go undefeated in group play for the first time since the 2003 World Cup.

Alex Morgan received a chipped ball in the box that she was able to take out of the air, then split two defenders to find an open Wambach who had time to easily slot the ball in the side netting.

North Korea brought the intensity against the U.S. though. Of the three teams the U.S. faced in group play, the North Koreans seemed to be the most fit, able to last a full 90 at what seemed to be 100 miles an hour.

Aside from an 81st minute red card to North Korea’s Mi Gyong Choe, and a handful of unnecessary fouls, I would say it was a good showing for a very young team.

For the U.S., it was refreshing to see how comfortable left back Kelly O’Hara looked. She won tackles on the flank and got forward when she was able to. She looked like a natural.

The U.S. attack didn’t look as dangerous as it has in the past. For the next few matches, they’ll need to find that rhythm again and play more 1 and 2 touch soccer in the final third.

Here are game reports from rest of the matches:

Canada vs. Sweden: By Ciara McCormack
Great Britain vs. Brazil: By Eleri Earnshaw
France vs. Colombia: By Matteo Marzoli
New Zealand vs. Cameroon: By JJ Duke

With the way things ended today, here are the quarterfinal matchups:

Friday August 3rd

  • 7:00am
    Sweden vs. France
  • 9:30am
    United States vs. New Zealand
  • 12pm
    Brazil vs. Japan
  • 2:30pm
    Great Britain vs. Canada

Olympic Recap: Great Britain vs. Brazil

by Eleri Earnshaw

With so many variables potentially affecting the result of this game, one thing could be assumed – that it would be a good one.

Brazil and Team GB entered the match sitting atop Group E, with a maximum 6 points and fighting for top seed.

Brazil on paper presented a very different threat to that shown by Team GB’s previous opponents in this tournament; the very real threat of creativity, fluidity, and absolute quality on the ball. The familiar names of Marta, Cristiane and Rosana would be enough to make any coach or player heed caution.

There is a very big different between playing with caution and playing with alarm. Hope Powell’s side showed no sign of the latter as they took early control of the game through an excellent goal from Stephanie Houghton – now top goal scorer for Team GB having scored in every game as a left back.

The anticipated threat of Brazil never arrived. Their star players were dealt with comfortably and Brazil’s chances were largely limited to shots from outside the box in the first half. Instead, the threat on goal came from Team GB with Kelly Smith narrowly missing late in the first half from a superbly executed volley across goal.

Team GB settled into a marvelous rhythm as the first half continued, enjoying large spells of good, positive possession. They looked extremely organized and disciplined.
The simple commands of “stand her up” and “keep passing the ball” bellowed from Powell’s mouth as GB executed the simple yet very effective defensive plan – keep the ball in front of us, maintain a compact shape to deny penetrating passes and whatever you do, never, EVER dive in.

This proved enough to thoroughly disrupt and frustrate Brazil – without having to throw a right hook.

The second half started as the first ended – with Team GB full of beans and Brazil full of frustration and angst.

To give them credit, Brazil started to show glimpses of why so many of us predicted a tough game for Team GB. A dangerous ball into the box, inadvertently directed goal ward by Alex Scott and hitting the post before being cleared. Marta also garnered a shot from inside the box, which, shockingly was a rare sight today.

The 70,000 crowd at Wembley stadium seemed to infuse this Team GB performance today (not a bad home-field advantage!). Growing up in the UK, having played with and against these payers, I never thought I’d see the day that Wembley stadium hosted a crowd of 70, 000 to cheer on Team GB at the Olympics. But I have – and it’s bloody brilliant!

Some great interplay in and around the Brazil penalty area was rewarded when Eniola Aluko was brought down from behind. Apparently, a tackle from behind by the last defender to deny a goal scoring chance is no longer worthy of a red card. Nevertheless, yellow card and PK awarded for the reckless challenge, Kelly Smith stepped up to try to extend her teams lead.

The ensuring PK was saved to the keepers bottom left and Brazil were given a string of hope.

Another thing I never thought I’d hear myself say (but very glad I can) is that Team GB looked the more skillful and technically sound team throughout. They were able to close out the game with great intensity and were threatening the Brazil goal until the final whistle.

At the risk of sounding biased, I must say that I am disappointed by Brazil’s performance today. Perhaps this is fueled by my preconceived notions of the threat traditionally presented by Brazilian teams. Regardless of the majesty and brilliance that was missing from their game today, they lacked leadership, discipline and patience. Shake my head Brazil….shake my head.

Today’s game put to rest my doubts about Team GB. Their defensive shape and discipline, composure in possession and combination play in dangerous areas could challenge for a medal if they continue drum out this kind of performance.