- Olympic participants warming up with friendlies
- Japan and USA looking strong, while Chile pulled off a great result
- Caroline Seger and Carli Lloyd make history
In just over a month, the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament will be getting underway in Tokyo. For those teams taking part, there is little time left to prepare, so many of them have taken the opportunity to play international friendlies to gauge their form. Here is a closer look at some of the countries.
Japan are among the favourites, and they certainly proved that in their friendlies against Ukraine and Mexico, thrashing the former 8-0. “It was great to score eight goals but there were plenty of periods when we didn’t manage to get possession of the ball, so this match showed us that we still need to aim for a higher level,” said the Nadeshiko’s Mana Iwabuchi afterwards. “We were able to adapt our game in the second half and make some improvements, so that’s a positive we can take from the match.” Three days later, coach Asako Takakura’s team defeated Mexico 5-1.
Player to watch: Yuzuho Shiokoshi
The 23-year-old made her international debut against Ukraine on the right side of midfield, and marked the occasion with a two-goal haul.
Things did not go quite according to plan for the North Americans, who put in a good performance against Czech Republic but failed to find the back of the net, with the match finishing 0-0. “If we want a medal, and not just any kind of medal, then we need to look after the ball more and put these chances away. We had some good openings but we have to convert them,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman. In their second friendly against Brazil, the team then also drew a blank. “I think that the players put in an incredible performance and gave it everything they’ve got,” said Priestman. “We took a step forward and while we didn’t manage to score a goal, we should be happy with the clean sheet.”
Chile, who are taking part in a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament for the first time, went down 1-0 to Slovakia in their opening friendly. In their second match, they crossed swords with no less an opponent than 2016 gold medal winners Germany, who will not be in Tokyo this time around. Anyone who thought that the reigning Olympic champions would stroll to victory was very much mistaken, with the teams playing out a 0-0 draw in Offenbach. This was a result to be proud of for Chile, who were facing Germany for just the second time in their history.
Pia Sundhage has already won Olympic gold twice as a coach, both times with USA. Now she is gunning for a medal at the helm of Brazil, and after a 3-0 win over Russia, a_a A Seleção_ were brimming with confidence ahead of their clash with Canada. A fiercely-contested match ended up in a goalless draw, but Sundhage’s team nevertheless looked strong up front in their final warm-up for Tokyo 2020, while also neutralising the Canadians’ attacks at the other end of the pitch.
Player to watch: Bruna Benites
She captained her country at London 2012, before going on to win the Copa America Femenina two years later and was also in the squad for Rio 2016. Injuries prevented her taking part in the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, both in Canada in 2015 and in France in 2019, but the 35-year-old is currently in the form of her life, scoring twice against Russia.
The France 2019 finalists got their Olympic warm-ups off to a disappointing start, slipping to a 1-0 defeat to Italy. Le Azzurre were the surprise package two years ago at the Women’s World Cup, playing an efficient attacking brand of football and making it all the way to the quarter-finals before losing 2-0 to none other than the OranjeLeeuwinnen. This loss at the hands of Italy seemed to be the wake-up call that Sarina Wiegman’s team needed, and five days later, they put that disappointment behind them and inflicted a 7-0 trouncing on a Norway side admittedly without star players Caroline Graham Hansen and Maren Mjelde. This was the Netherlands’ biggest-ever win over the Norwegians.
When it comes to Olympic medals, no country has a better return than USA with four golds and a silver in six tournaments. This time around, they will clearly be going for gold once again, as they showed by beating Portugal in the opener at the 2021 WNT Summer Series, even if it was only a narrow 1-0 win. Although it took until late in the second half for the only goal of the game, the Stars and Stripes dominated both up front and at the back. They then followed that with a 4-0 win over Jamaica in their second fixture.
Player to watch: Carli Lloyd
Against Jamaica, Lloyd recorded the team’s second-fastest-ever goal, getting on the score-sheet after just 23 seconds, and at 38 years and 332 days, she is also the oldest goalscorer in USWNT history.
Before facing Australia, Sweden eked out a 1-0 win over Norway after neat work from Kosovare Asllani set up Stina Blackstenius in the 66th minute. “We need players who can operate in a number of different positions and that is what we have to concentrate on in the two matches that we have now,” said coach Peter Gerhardsson on svenskfotboll.se. “We know which players will be available, so these games will be the last piece of the puzzle that need to fall into place.” How that puzzle looks after a 0-0 draw with Australia is uncertain, but the proof will come on 21 July when they take on USA.
Player to watch: Caroline Seger
Sweden’s captain made history by surpassing Therese Sjogran’s record for appearances for her country, the latter having made 214, the same number as Birgit Prinz. “I am really proud of this. Breaking the record with this fantastic team on home soil was certainly something special,” said Seger after winning her 215th cap against Australia. “Therese told me that records are made to be broken. And she said that she could think of no better player to break this one. Those are great words from an incredible person and an outstanding footballer.”
Australia scored twice in the last five minutes of their match with Denmark, but any good work had already been undone in advance by ten minutes of utter chaos in the first half which meant that the Danes ran out 3-2 winners. “You’re always disappointed to lose and it’s even tougher when you feel that you really shouldn’t have lost the match,” said coach Tony Gustavsson to the media after the game before turning his attentions to the following match, where his charges battled it out to a 0-0 draw against Sweden in Kalmar.