Knockout battles take shape

THE DAY REPLAYED – The quarter-final line-up for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament is now complete, with Sweden, USA and Great Britain heading into the last eight as group winners after an intriguing day of action.

France will face the Swedes after seeing off Colombia, while Brazil – already assured of their place before losing to Team GB – will face up to world champions Japan, who were held goalless by South Africa. However, the scenes of greatest joy were seen at St James’s Park, where Canada came from two goals down to set up a last-eight duel with the hosts, and in Coventry, where New Zealand beat Cameroon to reach the knockout stage for the first time.

Group E
New Zealand 3-1 Cameroon
Great Britain 1-0 Brazil

Group F
Canada 2-2 Sweden
Japan 0-0 South Africa

Group G
USA 1-0 Korea DPR
France 1-0 Colombia

Goal of the day
New Zealand-Cameroon, Rebecca Smith (43’)
On a day short of spectacular strikes, the All Whites captain earns our vote due to the significance of hers. It might not have been a thing of beauty, but in heading home Ria Percival’s corner two minutes before half-time, Smith set her side on the road to becoming the first New Zealand team to make it through the group stage at a FIFA tournament.

Memorable moments
Herdman’s happy homecoming
Though his coaching reputation has been built in New Zealand and Canada, John Herdman grew up in Newcastle and spent his childhood cheering on his hometown team at St James’s Park. Memories and emotions were therefore stirred by his return to the famous old stadium, and Herdman’s team did him proud by coming from 2-0 down to draw with Sweden and qualify for the quarter-finals. "They are no longer ‘girls’, but ‘lasses’ now,” he said afterwards, laughing. “The Geordie spirit clawed us back to 2-2!"

Wambach and the worm
Choreographed celebrations are nothing new to USA’s women, but the reigning champions took things to a new level after Abby Wambach scored their 50th Olympic goal against Korea DPR. The fact that Wambach and eight other players joined hands and waved their arms might have been remarkable in itself, but eyes were instead drawn to the other end of the pitch, where goalkeeper Hope Solo and veteran captain Christie Rampone gave their own version of ‘the worm’. “Sometimes Hope doesn't get involved in our celebrations and she said before the game that the worm is the only dance she can do,” Wambach explained later. “We just tried to set her up."

Records crowd rocks Wembley
Wembley’s first-ever women’s international match proved memorable for all sorts of reasons. Aside from the quality of football on show, and a thoroughly deserved win for the hosts, the game smashed the UK record attendance for a women’s match, set when 53,000 turned out to watch Dick Kerr Ladies play their St Helen’s counterparts at Goodison Park on 26 December 1920. Ninety-two years on, the 70,584 fans inside the national stadium made the most of the landmark occasion, roaring their team forward, chanting their support, while also clapping and singing along to Queen’s ‘We will Rock You’ during the half-time break.

The stat
– Before London 2012, only two players – Norway’s Linda Medalen and China’s Sun Wen in 1996 and 2000 respectively – had scored in all three group games. That number has more than doubled over the past week, with Canada’s Melissa Tancredi, USA icon Abby Wambach and Stephanie Houghton of Team GB all going into the knockout stages having found the net in every match.

The quote
“It will give the ladies back home a boost and give them the motivation to also make it to the Olympics. I am pretty sure we have opened doors for other women. I am sure that today they are very proud of us.”
South Africa’s Sanah Mollo on drawing with the world champions

Next up
Friday 3 August (all kick-offs local time)
Sweden-France, Glasgow, 12.00
USA-New Zealand, Newcastle, 14.30
Japan-Brazil, Cardiff, 17.00
Great Britain-Canada, Coventry, 19.30