The knockout stage of Women’s Olympic Soccer looks a lot like the top 10 in the FIFA world Rankings. Given the dearth of available slots - something that should be remedied moving forward - only eight of the top 12 teams in the FIFA world rankings were allowed to appear. Each of those eight advanced from the group stage setting up a series of excellent quarterfinal matches. The semi-finals and finals will, as always, be hotly contested, but this year’s Olympics have provided no surprises thus far. Whatever happens moving forward they are certain to provide entertaining soccer matches for the duration.
Match 1: #8 Brazil vs #5 Australia
Brazil is the host team and the face of women’s soccer in their country, Marta, is likely playing in her last major tournament. Most pundits seem to think a semi-final date with the USWNT is all but decided but don’t sleep on The Matildas. Australia has looked very good at times (against Germany and Zimbabwe) and losing to a focused Canadian side in the opener is nothing to be ashamed about, especially considering their coach inexplicably decided to play a 3-5-2 against a strong offensive Canadian squad. They are the fifth ranked team in the world for a reason and Sam Kerr, Lisa De Vanna, and Caitlin Foord are a dangerous trio. NWSL star Steph Catley is the leader of the defense. Australia 2 - Brazil 1
Match 2: #1 USA vs #6 Sweden
Everyone knows that Pia Sundhage not only used to coach the USWNT but that she, inexplicably, called out Carli Lloyd at the World Cup last year, before leading Sweden to a tie against the US, the only blemish on their record. Sundhage will have her team ready but probably not as ready as the USWNT coming off of an embarrassing performance against Columba. Hope Solo and the defense are not likely to concede many opportunities in this game and the US is primed for an offensive explosion, and should get a well rested Tobin Heath back. An often overlooked fact about Heath is how well she links up with Alex Morgan. Lotta Schelin is a dangerous veteran but still, #prayforSweden. USWNT 3 - Sweden 0
Match 3: #10 Canada vs #3 France
This is really the battle of two moments. France has as much talent as Germany and the US, if not as much depth, and has been on the cusp for a long time. It’s high time the French women took the next step forward and overcame some adversity on the field. Eugenie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry, and Camille Abila are a talented trio of vets that really need to step up and win a big game. Canada, still clearly annoyed by their semi-final loss to the US at the last Olympics are on fire at the moment. Christine Sinclair is, like Marta, playing for her last chance at a major title, Melissa Tancredi is playing as well as she ever has and Stephanie Labbe has been a very pleasant surprise following the retirement of Erin Mcleod. The real story in Canada, however, is the rise of talented youngsters Janine Beckie and Kadeisha Buchanan. Both players offer hope for a bright future for Canada. Christine SInclair is hoping the future starts now.
Canada 2 France - 1
Match #4 #2 Germany vs #12 China
Germany has a recent history of not finishing tournaments strong. If that trend continues China could pose a problem. If Germany is crisp and on point, however, there just isn’t much China will be able to do to stop them. Like every other team on this list Germany has a strong trio of scorers in Anja Mittag, Dzsenifer Marozsan, and Alexandra Popp. China’s best hope is to play efficiently and deprive Germany of possession. Having to be more efficient than your German opponents in order to win is just not a recipe for success. Plus, Germany probably wants another shot at Canada. Germany 2 - China 0