Friday, 12 August 2016
If anyone should know how to derail the USA’s women’s charge of a fourth consecutive football Olympic gold it should be the woman charged with plotting their downfall in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Pia Sundhage was US coach for their gold medal runs in Beijing and London, but leads her native Sweden into battle in Brasilia.
And Sundhage knows the size of the challenge that awaits her side, who sneaked into the last eight as one of the two best third-placed sides in the group stages.
“We know that we are facing the USA, the reigning Olympic and world champions.
“They have several world-class players, they have won a medal in every Olympics, four gold and one silver, so it will be a great challenge.”
Sweden will have to handle the likes of Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan better than when faced with Brazil’s wonder woman Marta, who tore the Scandinavians to shreds in a 5-1 win last weekend.
The USA eased through as winners of Group G, but have failed to hit the heights in Brazil that saw them win the World Cup for the first time in 17 years in Canada last summer.
Two uncharacteristic howlers from goalkeeeper Hope Solo on her 201st cap handed Colombia a 2-2 draw in their final group game on Tuesday – snapping the Americans’ 13-game win streak at the Olympics.
“We always want to perform well, every single game, but reality is that it’s not possible,” said World Player of the Year Lloyd, who has already scored twice in Brazil.
“I look at this as a positive, as something that we can use to motivate ourselves. We know we can be better.
“We have to move on and now it’s do-or-die time, one game at a time. We’ll be ready and fired up.”
– Motivated by revenge –
Should the US come through, the tantalising prospect of a semi-final against Brazil at the iconic Maracana on Tuesday awaits if the hosts can continue their fine form and see off Australia in Belo Horizonte.
Marta only played the second-half in a meaningless 0-0 draw with South Africa on Tuesday and will return to the starting line-up along with the top-scorer in Olympic history, Cristiane.
Australia also come in full of confidence having thrashed Zimbabwe 6-1 and held two-time world champions Germany 2-2 to qualify.
As well as continuing their quest for a first Olympic gold, Brazil will also be motivated by revenge after the Matildas caused a huge shock by dumping them out of last year’s World Cup 1-0 in the last 16.
On the other half of the draw Canada — the only side with a 100 percent record in Brazil — take on France in Sao Paulo.
Meanwhile, China face Germany in Salvador expected to put up a much bigger fight than when the two sides last met in the Olympics when the Germans stormed to a tournament-record 8-0 win in Athens 12 years ago.
Source by: AFP