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| Event type

Football, Women

Date21 July – 6 August 2021
StatusOlympic
Participants228 from 12 countries
FormatRound-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament of four teams.

The defending champions Germany failed to qualify for Toyo 2020 after losing to Sweden in the quarter-finals in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which acted as a qualifier for the Olympics. That made the United States, with four Olympic, and four FIFA Women’s World Cup titles to their credit, clear favourites for the gold medal in Tokyo. They went into the 2020 Games with a 44-game unbeaten run, and had not conceded a goal in six consecutive games. The USA were also favourites in Rio four years earlier, but it was the only time an American women’s team had failed to reach the Olympic final, when they were beaten on penalties by Sweden in the quarter-final. By coincidence, the opening round of fixtures in Tokyo saw the USA and Sweden kicking off group G. At the age of 39, Carli Lloyd was playing in her fourth Olympics, and went into the Tokyo Games with 306 international caps and 126 goals to her credit.

New Zealand were in the same group as the USA and they had four experienced “Football Ferns” in Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, Anna Green, and Ali Riley who were all competing in their fourth Olympics at Tokyo. The team also contained two members of New Zealand’s bronze medal winning Under-17 World Cup side in striker Gabi Rennie and goalkeeper Anna Leat.

The best of the European countries were the three that finished below the United States in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Netherlands, Sweden and England (playing as Great Britain in Tokyo). In Vivianne Miedema Netherlands, the 2017 European champions, had one the biggest names in women’s football in their ranks. She played her club football with Arsenal and, with 60 goals, was the all-time leading English Women’s Super League goalscorer. Up to the start of the tournament, her 73 goals in 96 international appearances also made her Netherlands’ leading women’s goalscorer.

The youngest player was Esther Siamfuko of Zambia, who was just 16 when the tournament started, while the oldest was Brazil midfielder Formiga, who was 43 years 140 days when she played in Brazil’s 5-0 win over China on the opening day in Tokyo. This was Formiga’s seventh tournament, and she had played in every women’s tournament since it was added to the Olympic programme in 1996. Brazil also had the experienced Marta playing alongside her, and both were keen to go one better than the two silver medals they both won in 2004 and 2008.

Swedish-born coach Pia Sundhage guided the USA to Olympic victory in 2008 and 2012, and then led her home country to that quarter-final victory over the Americans, and ultimately a place in the final in Rio. Now she was in charge of Brazil, who were looking for their first women’s title. They were beaten finalists in 2004 and 2008, when Sundhage was the victorious USA coach.

Great Britain kicked the women’s tournament off with a 2-0 win over Olympic newcomers Chile, thanks to two goals from Ellen White. The big shock of day one, however, was the United States losing their unbeaten run to their old foes Sweden. The Europeans were the better side and ran out impressive 3-0 winners, and after just one game were looking like potential gold medallists.

The two newcomers Netherlands and Zambia met each other on the opening day and engaged in a record-breaking match. With Netherlands winning 10-3, they were the first women’s team to score 10 goals in the competition proper, and the 13 goals was the highest aggregate score for a single game. Also, Vivianne Miedema became only the second person after Birgit Prinz of Germany in 2004 to score four goals in a game, and Zambia’s 21-year-old captain Babra Banda, a former professional boxer, became only the second woman after Christine Sinclair (Canada) in 2012 to be on the losing side after scoring a hat-trick. She also became the first female African player to score three goals at the Olympics, and it was also the first time two women had scored hat-tricks in the same game.

In the second round of group games, China’s Wang Shuang emulated Miedema’s feat of scoring four goals in one game, in the 4-4 draw with Zambia. Barbra Banda scored three goals for Zambia and became the first woman to score consecutive hat-tricks at the Olympics. The much-awaited match between Netherlands and Brazil ended in a 3-3- draw, which meant only Sweden and Great Britain had maximum points going into the final group games.

With so much at stake in the final games, it was not surprising that goals were not as forthcoming as they had been in the opening two rounds of matches, but that was a script Netherlands did not bother reading. They scored another eight goals in beating China 8-2 to take their tally from their opening three games to 21 goals, with Miedema scoring twice to take her individual total to eight, surpassing the previous record of six in one tournament by Christine Sinclair in 2012.

Sweden progressed to the knockout stage as the only team with a 100% record while Great Britain lost theirs after drawing 1-1 with Canada, but still topped their group. The Netherlands were the other team to top their group while Brazil, USA and Canada all qualified for the next stage as runners-up, and Australia and Japan went through as the two best third-placed teams.

The opening quarter-final game saw Brazil and Canada play out a goalless draw after 120 minutes and the game was resolved on penalties, which the North Americans won 4-3, and defeated Brazil for the second consecutive Olympics, having beaten them in the bronze medal match in Rio. There was no repeat of the goalless draw in the Australia and Great Britain game. Australia led before going 2-1 behind and then equalised in the 89th minute. Great Britain had a penalty saved in extra time before the Australians netted two quick goals and, despite Ellen White completing her hat-trick, ran out 4-3 winners. Two of Australia’s goals came from Chelsea’s Samantha Kerr, the top scorer in the English Women’s Super League in the 2020-21 season. It was the first time an Australian team had reached the semi-final since the men’s team at Barcelona in 1992, and it was the first time ever that the women’s team had reached the last four.

Sweden reached their second successive semi-final with a 3-1 win over Japan while the Netherlands versus USA match was the third quarter-final to go to extra-time. In a repeat of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Miedema, playing in her 100th international, scored two more goals, to take her total for the tournament to ten. The game ended in a 2-2 draw at the end of extra time with the USA winning 4-2 on penalties, with Miedema having her first penalty saved. For the USA, it was their sixth semi-final in seven Olympic tournaments.

The United States failed to reach the women’s final for the second consecutive Olympics and only for the second time since the women’s game joined the Olympic programme in 1996. Despite having most of the play in their semi-final against Canada, they succumbed to a 73rd minute penalty converted by Jessie Fleming. Having been bronze medallists in both 2012 and 2016, Canada were assured of going at least one better in Tokyo, and victory was also sweet revenge for a 4-3 defeat by the USA at London 2012. Standing in Canada’s way of deciding ff they won silver or gold was Sweden, who beat Australia with a goal in the first minute of the second half, shortly after Australia had a goal disallowed, to defeat the first-time semi-finallists. For Sweden, they were in back-to-back finals and they wanted to go one better than the silver they won when they lost to Germany in Rio.

The bronze medal match started with three quick goals and after 21 minutes the USA were 2-1 up on Australia before adding a third right on half time. The goals kept coming in the second half, and after 51 minutes the USA had extended their lead to 4-1 with a second goal from Carli Lloyd. The “Matildas” pulled one back three minutes later and just on 90 minutes scored again to make it a nervous last few minutes for the Americans, who held out for victory and the bronze medal, to go with their collection of four golds and one silver.

The Swedish team was full of world class footballers and were favourites to improve on their silver medal finish at Rio. The Canadians, however, had enjoyed bronze medals at the last two Olympics and, like the Swedes, had reached the final without losing a game. The final was switched to Yokohama because of the state of the Tokyo pitch. The kick-off time was also moved from 1100 (local time) to 2100 because of concerns over the midday heat in Tokyo.

Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius opened the scoring on 34 minutes with the 100th goal of the 2020 tournament, before another Jessie Fleming penalty, confirmed by VAR, levelled the scores midway through the second half. It stayed at 1-1 up to the end of the 30 minutes extra period and then the game was decided on penalties with Canada coming from 2-1 down to win 3-2, with Julia Grosso converting the winning spot kick to give Canada their first Olympic gold medal, and Sweden had to be content with silver for the second successive Games.

PosNrTeamNOCWTLPts
1CanadaCAN–––Gold
2SwedenSWE–––Silver
3United StatesUSA–––Bronze
4AustraliaAUS–––
5NetherlandsNED–––
6BrazilBRA–––
7Great BritainGBR–––
8JapanJPN–––
9ZambiaZAM–––
10People's Republic of ChinaCHN–––
11ChileCHI–––
12New ZealandNZL–––

Rankings

Goals
Shots
Shots on Goal
Fouls Committed
Yellow Cards
Red Cards