Monday 15 August 2016, 08:35

Familiar feel as women vie for final berths


There is an air of déjà vu about the semi-finals of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016, as both ties are rematches of fixtures that took place during the group stage: Brazil-Sweden and Canada-Germany. With the hosts and the Canucks having emerged victorious last time out, their opponents will have a score to settle as they seek to seal a final spot. FIFA.compreviews the action.

Matches of the day*Brazil-Sweden, 13:00, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro*

The Seleçao, 5-1 winners over the Swedes in the second round of group-stage fixtures, have in Marta a player who knows the Scandinavians like the back of her hand: she is in the fourth year of her second spell in the country, having previously plied her trade there between 2004 and 2009. Indeed, this familiarity bred success for the star ten days ago at the Olympic Stadium, where she bagged a brace in what was unquestionably her side's marquee performance of the tournament to date. They have failed to recapture that form since, though, just edging through to the semi-finals on home soil on the back of consecutive 0-0 draws. They will be hoping that lightning strikes twice and they can rediscover their former spark as they return to Rio for their last-four tie.

However, the hosts will undoubtedly be highly wary of a stout Sweden team who look to be on an upward trajectory. While the Blågult had a mixed start to the tournament, racking up a win, that heavy loss to the Brazilians and a draw in group action, they will be in buoyant spirits following their 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory over USA in an epic quarter-final that finished 1-1 after extra time. Another factor that will certainly fill them with confidence is having Pia Sundhage in their corner: the Swedish coach already has two Olympic gold medals under her belt from her time in charge of the Americans.

Canada-Germany, 16:00, **Mineirao, Belo Horizonte The Canadians have impressed throughout the competition so far. They opened their campaign by dispatching Australia 2-0 despite having a player sent off early on, before easing past Zimbabwe 3-1 and laying down a real marker by snapping a 12-game winless streak against Germany with a 2-1 triumph. They followed that up by claiming another scalp, sinking a strong-looking France side in the quarter-finals. The Canucks therefore have every reason to be optimistic ahead of renewing hostilities with the Germans in Belo Horizonte, especially with stars Kadeisha Buchanan, Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie primed to start after having respectively been suspended and rested for the previous meeting between the teams.

Despite all of the above, Germany will surely not be overly daunted going into the encounter. They are accustomed to big occasions and can take inspiration from the last time that the country featured in a semi-final at the Mineirao – it was there and at this stage of the competition that Die Mannschaft recorded their historic 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the FIFA World Cup™ a couple of years ago. Moreover, although they failed to totally convince in the group stage, winning one, drawing one and losing one, Silvia Neid's charges served notice of what they are capable of by nullifying China PR in the quarter-finals. And, as if that were not enough, they possess a lethal weapon in the shape of Melanie Behringer: the Bayern Munich schemer is currently the tournament's leading scorer with four goals.

Player to watch*Kadeisha Buchanan (Canada) *A year on from being named the best young player at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™, the 20-year-old defender has caught the eye again on the Olympic stage and not just because of her now-trademark red-streaked braids. Her strength in the tackle and silky distribution could prove vital in containing and getting the better of the Germans, the event's most prolific side with ten goals.

The stat3 – Sweden have only netted three goals en route to the semi-finals, through Nilla Fischer, Lotta Schelin and Stina Blackstenius. This is the first time a team have ever got this far at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament with such a low tally.

The words"When the fixture schedule was released, I said that of the 12 teams, around eight had what it takes to win gold. All four semi-finalists have a good chance of tasting glory. On our side, our preparations have been very good and we're psychologically ready. It won't be a game that will teach us any lessons – we've already learned from what happened at last year's World Cup." Brazil coach Vadao (Oswaldo Alvarez)

Match schedule*Semi-finals Brazil-Sweden, 13:00, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro Canada-Germany, 16:00, Mineirao, Belo Horizonte (All times local)*