The tournament kicked off with Sweden facing South Africa in balmy Rio. The match, much like many opening matches was not a classic, Sweden well on top but unable to break down a resolute South Africa – the kind of match that takes a moment of pure magic or utter lunacy to see a goal. The lone goal came – not from either magic or lunacy but – a goalmouth scramble half-way through the second-half, Wolfsburg centre-back Nilla Fischer with the last touch to prod the ball over the line at a corner.
The third match of the day was the other Group E encounter with Brazil looking to give the home fans a show in their opener against Bruno Bini’s youthful Steel Roses. Despite the tournament hosts practically steam-rolling a well below par China they struggled to do anything worthwhile with their possession until late in the first-half.
Unsurprisingly the opening goal was as scrappy as Fischer’s for Sweden; another set-piece that wasn’t well dealt with pinged around in the box before Monica got her shot away and through the jumbled defence. Brazil made it two on the hour mark after some beautiful play from Marta on the right before the Ballon d’Or winner cut in and squared the ball for Andressa Alves to put past Zhao Lina. Cristiane put the gloss on in the last minute of normal time, flicking the ball past Lina following a deep free-kick. Brazil worthy winners.
Group F opened with Canada going head-to-head with Australia, neither team happy to go through as a best third-placed winner. The game started at a lightening pace with Houston Dash’s Janine Beckie opening the score just 19 seconds into the game, side-footing Christine Sinclair’s perfectly weighted lay-off past Dash teammate, Lydia Williams. The Matilda’s responded well and began to work Stephanie Labbé at every opportunity but the Canadian (regular) second-choice keeper pulled off a number of fine saves to keep her clean-sheet. Even with the dismissal of Shelina Zadorsky early in the match, Australia were unable to take their chances.
Canada came at them in full force late in the second-half and after Williams had saved Beckie’s penalty and Jessie Fleming had seen her shot cleared off the line it was somewhat of a surprise when the game got its’ second goal. With ten minutes left to play, Sinclair launched yet another attack as Williams mindlessly pelted out of her box and mistimed her tackle, even with the defenders advancing the Canadian captain calmly pushed the ball past the yellow shirts and into the empty net.
Zimbabwe 1-6 Germany - Neid's side start Rio 2016 with resounding win over Mighty Warriors
The second match in Group F was contested between Germany and tournament debutants, Zimbabwe and could easily be renamed the Battle of São Paulo. The tone of the match was set early when Simone Laudehr was withdrawn less than twenty minutes in after a particularly unpleasant challenge from Lynett Mutokuto. Despite the set-back, Silvia Neid’s side soon got the goal they deserved as Sara Däbritz nodded past Lindiwe Magwede at a Melanie Leupolz corner. The second goal was another headed effort, Alexandra Popp beating her marker in the air as Mutokuto came out to claim but missed the ball as Popp put it past the shot-stopper.
After a spirited first-half performance many would have forgiven the Mighty Warriors for fading in the second-half but the surprise of the day came when Kudakwashe Basopo gave Zimbabwe their first ever goal at an Olympic tournament. After a half-hearted clearance from captain Saskia Bartusiak, Almuth Schult was left scrambling as Basopo knocked the ball past the Wolfsburg keeper. Zimbabwe’s come-back was however short-lived as Melanie Behringer to added a third when her 25 yard free kick flew over the wall and dipped under the crossbar perfectly to catch Magwede out. Behringer was on hand to add a fourth later in the game, volleying home through the keeper’s legs after seeing her penalty saved.
Still Die Nationalelf continued to attack and Leupolz added a timely fifth finishing after Popp set her up and there was still one last blow for the Might Warriors as Eunice Chiband knocked the ball past her helpless keeper in stoppage time after some neat work from substitute Lena Goeßling.
USA 2-0 New Zealand - Favourites begin medal defence with routine victory
The current Olympic Champions got their defence off to a fine start against a well-organised New Zealand side. The Americans started strongly and it wasn’t long before they were calling the Football Ferns keeper Erin Nayler into action. Despite keeping an early Carli Lloyd shot out there was nothing young keeper could do as the current Ballon d’Or winner headed across goal to pick out the far netting. The Ferns rallied well and stood up to the current World Champions but quickly saw all their good work undone a minute into the second-half when Alex Morgan doubled the USWNT’s advantage. Morgan Brian’s light lay-off found Morgan on the left side of the box, the Orlando Pride striker carried the ball further into the box before neatly finishing inside off Naylor’s near post. Once again the Ferns rallied but were unable to beat the steely US defence or Hope Solo.
France 4-0 Colombia - France dominate South American oppisition.
Not to be outdone by Germany, Brazil or the US, France were quick to stamp their authority on the tournament going a goal up inside of two minutes’ courtesy of a Carolina Arias own goal. The French went from strength to strength and added a quick second when Eugénie Le Sommer was first to react to a loose ball in the box and nod past a scrambling Sandra Sepúlveda. The match was all but over when Camille Abily made it three before the break with an outrageous free kick that despite Sepúlveda getting a hand to, refused to stop before slamming into the back of the net.
Although Les Bleues continued to attack after the break they seemed much more relaxed in the game knowing that their opponents were nowhere near their best and were happy not to expend too much energy in the pursuit of additional goals. Amel Majri made four the magic number after her late free-kick beat Sepúlveda to fly into the net by way of the crossbar.