August 17 – While the Brazilian crowd booed French Olympic silver medal winning pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie at the presentation ceremony where Brazilian Thiago Braz da Silva collected gold, across town an almost full capacity crowd Maracana were stunned into silence when Sweden’s Lisa Dahlkvist slotted the final penalty in the semi-final shoot-out that sent the hosts to bronze medal play-off in Sao Paulo.
Later, Germany ensured it would be an all-European final in the Maracana as goals from Melanie Behringer and Sara Dabritz earned them victory over London 2012 bronze medallists Canada.
Behringer opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Kadeisha Buchanan fouled Alex Popp in the area. Dabritz added the second goal after the break when she fired in from the edge of the area.
The semi-finals have turned the Women’s Olympic tournament form book upside down. Germany had struggled to find cohesion in their group games, losing to Canada 2-1, but have come alive subsequently. In contrast Canada, who sailed through the group, struggled subsequently.
The pain will be most acutely felt by Brazil.
Marta, who was cheered every time she touched the ball, said: “This loss won’t take away from all that we have done to get here. We have the match for the bronze medal now and we will fight until the end to get that medal. We have to pick up the pieces to try to win this medal.”
Brazil may have hammered the Swedes 5-1 in their group game, but all the lessons had been learned by Sweden and their coach Pia Sundhage. They went the same way as the US.
Lining up with a defensive five player midfield banked in front of a solid back four and an outstanding goalkeeper, Sweden’s only moves forward were rare counter attacks. Despite their famed skills and guile the Brazilians could not break the opposition down near enough to goal to create real match-winning chances.
With Christ the Redeemer overlooking this spectacular city, the Rio Olympic women’s tournament is not going to any pre-ordained plan. The top-ranked Americans went home without a medal for the first time since women’s soccer joined the Olympics in 1996. The World Cup champions were playing for their fourth straight gold. With their exit it looked like Brazilian dreams could become a reality.
But it wasn’t to be the case. Sweden’s best Olympic finish was in Athens when they lost to Germany in the bronze medal match. Brazil beat Sweden 1-0 in the semi-finals at those Olympics.
“Yes, we are very excited. That we are doing something that the Swedish national team has never done before – play for a medal – it’s a big smile,” Sundhage said. “Still, we’re not satisfied. We want to win the next game.”
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