The German national team made history in two ways at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016. They not only won their first ever gold medal in six editions of the competition, having previously collected bronze at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, but also contested the first final between two European sides – with USA absent from the deciding game for the first time.
Despite travelling to Brazil for Silvia Neid’s final tournament as head coach with high hopes, the Germans were far from convincing in the group stages, recording one win, one draw and one defeat to qualify for the knockout phase as the second-placed team in Group F. From that point on, however, they looked a completely different prospect, easing into the final by beating China PR and Canada 1-0 and 2-0 respectively.
Final opponents Sweden made a similarly subdued start to the competition. After reaching the last eight as one of the two best third-placed sides in the group stage, theTre Kronor surprised many by defeating gold medal favourites USA. Pia Sundhage’s side beat the Americans 4-3 in the first penalty shoot-out in Olympic women’s football history before dispatching hosts Brazil by the same spot-kick scoreline in the semi-final.
The final certainly lived up to expectations. Germany and Sweden had never drawn a match in 25 previous meetings – and their showdown at Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana Stadium would be no different. German coach Silvia Neid enjoyed a fairytale ending to a remarkable career as her team won 2-1 in normal time thanks to a strike from Dzsenifer Marozsan and a Linda Sembrant own goal. The Swedes shrugged off the disappointment of defeat to celebrate their country’s first medal in women’s football and collect the tournament’s Fair Play Award.
Canada grab bronze again as hosts left empty-handed
Just as at London 2012, Canada delivered another convincing performance at Rio 2016. After being the only team to collect maximum points from the group stages, the Canucks progressed to the last four with a formidable quarter-final display against France. Despite wearing the number 13 on her shirt, Sophie Schmidt’s luck was in against the European side as she popped up to score the only goal of the match and replicate Canada’s result against the same opposition in the bronze-medal match in London four years ago. John Herdman’s side ultimately stumbled at the penultimate hurdle as eventual Olympic champions Germany exacted revenge for their 2-1 group-stage defeat.
Having narrowly missed out on gold in both 2004 and 2008, Brazil were determined to climb to the top step of the podium in front of a home crowd, and raised fans’ hopes by winning Group E. The South Americans’ nerves were then shredded in the quarter-finals as Marta and her team-mates eventually beat Australia on penalties after 120 goalless minutes, thus avenging their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ exit at the hands of the Matildas the previous year. After failing to repeat that shootout success against Sweden in the last four, the Brazilians ended the tournament empty-handed after losing 2-1 to Canada in their quest for a bronze medal.
USA suffer early exit
Despite travelling to Rio as overwhelming favourites having won Olympic gold for the third successive edition and fourth time overall at London 2012, the Stars and Stripes fell short of expectations. They followed two narrow victories with a 2-2 draw with Colombia in their final group game to take top spot in Group G, only to suffer an early exit to Sweden on penalties in the last eight to end their long period of dominance at the Olympic Games.
Although African representatives South Africa and Zimbabwe and second South American side Colombia exited the competition after the group stage, the progress made by all three teams was clear for all to see. New Zealand also made their way home before the knockout phase despite reaching the last eight in 2012. Despite beating Colombia 1-0, three points was not enough for the Football Ferns to advance alongside Group G rivals France and the USA as one of the best third-placed teams, with Australia and Sweden snatching these places instead.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, China PR, Colombia, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, USA, Zimbabwe
Fair Play Award: Sweden
Arena Amazonia (Manaus), Arena Corinthians (Sao Paulo), Arena Fonte Nova (Salvador), Estadio Mineirao (Belo Horizonte), Estadio Nacional (Brasilia), Maracana, Olympic Stadium (both Rio de Janeiro),
Total number of goals
66 (average per game: 2.54)
5: Melanie Behringer (GER)
3: Christine Sinclair (CAN)
3: Janine Beckie (CAN)