SA lose to Sweden in first Olympic match
SOUTH America’s first Olympic Games kicked off with women’s football yesterday, when Sweden beat South Africa 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro.
Although the opening ceremony takes place tomorrow, the football competitions began ahead of time with six women’s matches yesterday and another eight men’s games today.
The opening action at Rio’s Olympic stadium was lacklustre with few clear chances.
Nilla Fischer scored Sweden’s winner after 74 minutes, bundling the ball into the net with her knee after the South African keeper failed to hold a cross.
Sweden were superior, particularly in the first half, but could not turn possession into goals.
The result means South Africa have yet to win an Olympic football match in their four finals appearances.
The second game in Group A took place later yesterday when home side Brazil, seeking their first Olympic gold after two silver medal performances, took on China.
Holders and No. 1 ranked side the United States played New Zealand at night in Belo Horizonte.
The men’s competition begins today, with eight games, including Brazil against South Africa and holders Mexico versus Germany.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie scored to give Canada a 2-0 win over a tough Australia team in their opener of group stage play.
Beckie scored after 21 seconds — the fastest goal in Olympic history — to put Canada ahead early. Sinclair added a much-needed insurance goal at the 80-minute mark after catching Australia’s goalkeeper way out of her goal. She chipped the ball over the keeper’s head to score and followed with a passionate celebration.
The win boosts the Canadian women chances of advancing out of the group stage at the 2016 Olympics —
in Rio de Janeiro. Zimbabwe and Germany are also part of their group.
Things became difficult for Canada after 20 minutes when Shelina Zadorsky received a red card for pulling down an Australian player who got behind the Canadian defence.
Coach John Herdman reacted by pulling Sophie Tancredi and replacing her with the more defensiveminded Rebecca Quinn. Australia went on to show speed and dominate the rest of the first half.
Things changed in the second with Canada pushing harder and eventually being awarded a penalty kick after an apparent handball. Beckie shot straight at the goalie who made the easy save.
Despite the setback, Canada continued to push, with Sinclair scoring her first of the tournament.
Sinclair, Canada’s captain, is one of the team’s most respected veterans. Beckie has been a rock for Canada, scoring the winner against Brazil in stoppage time in the team’s last Oympic tune up in Ottawa on June 7 — a 1-0 Canadian win.
Yesterday’s game was played at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, which is about 400 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro.
The Canadian women won bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Canada’s next game is this Saturday at 2PM against Zimbabwe before closing group play next Tuesday at 3PM. against Germany. —
Goalkeeper Roxanne Barker (left) of South Africa and Fridolina Rolfo of Sweden in action. Reuters