Sweden and South Africa kicked off women's football at the 2016 Rio Games on Wednesday with the former triumphing, 1-0, at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Canada beat Australia, 2-0, in a breathless contest despite playing over 70 minutes with 10 women, while hosts Brazil beat China PR 3-0 in Group E. As expected, world No. 2 side Germany made similarly short work of Zimbabwe.
France will kick off their Olympic tournament against Colombia, while world champions USA will begin their bid for a fifth gold medal in Belo Horizonte against New Zealand.
Read on for a closer look at how the matches played out, but first, here are the results and the standings after Wednesday's action:
|2016 Rio Olympics: Wednesday's Women's Football Results|
Sweden set about attacking their opponents in the early stages, and just four minutes in, Sofia Jakobsson rattled the crossbar when the ball broke for her in the box. Team South Africa gave an early overview of the match:
Still 0-0 after 20min, Sweden doing all the attaching, Banyana Banyana defending well. Need to get more of the ball though #teamSArise2016-8-3 16:22:41
Despite the Swedes' dominance of possession, clear-cut chances would prove few and far between for the remainder of the half, as they struggled to test Banyana Banyana with just one of their eight efforts coming on target.
Lotta Schelin was played through on the left, but Roxanne Barker—who was otherwise fairly unconvincing as she failed to deal with balls into the box—did well to deny her in a one-on-one.
At the other end, South Africa looked to catch Sweden on the break but lacked quality in attack with five of their first-half forays upfield resulting in offside calls.
In the second half, substitute Elin Rubensson almost made an immediate impact when she cut inside and fired an effort at Barker, and the midfielder came close again when Jakobsson picked her out with a neat pullback, but her effort was well blocked.
Nilla Fischer eventually broke the deadlock in the 75th minute, scrambling the ball over the line after Barker twice flapped at the ball following a corner.
The three points give Sweden an excellent chance of reaching the quarter-finals, but South Africa will need to improve up front and in dealing with set pieces and crosses into the box if they're to join them.
Canada flew out of the traps as Janine Beckie netted after only 20 seconds. After pressuring Alanna Kennedy into conceding possession in her own half, Christine Sinclair picked out Beckie at the back post for a record-breaking tap-in, per Rio 2016:
Rio 2016 @Rio2016_en
19 seconds. That's all @janinebeckie4 needed to score the fastest goal in the history of Olympic Women's #Football https://t.co/u6li0bWC6G2016-8-3 19:22:06
After a slow start, Australia steadily grew into the contest and were rewarded for getting in behind Canada when Shelina Zadorsky brought down Michelle Heyman, prompting a red card.
Sports writer Neil Davidson suggested it was harsh on Zadorsky:
Neil Davidson @NeilMDavidson
Zadorsky sent off in 18th minute as last defender bringing down an attacker. She touched Heyman's shoulder and Aussie crumpled. #CANWNT2016-8-3 18:22:02
With Canada reduced to 10, the Matildas dominated proceedings as they moved the ball quickly in the final third as their opponents struggled to keep up. Samantha Kerr, Heyman and Elise Kellond-Knight each had chances to score, but Australia failed to level the score as Canada held onto their lead, at times by the skin of their teeth.
The Canadians eventually regrouped, and despite Beckie missing a penalty after a harsh handball decision against Caitlin Foord, they made it 2-0 in the 80th minute when Sinclair latched onto a long ball and rounded Lydia Williams.
Kennedy came close for Australia as she crashed a header onto the crossbar moments later, but Canada held on to give themselves a strong chance of progressing from the group stage.
Monica's header capped an excellent first half for Brazil, who could have been 2-0 against China PR up if not for Zhao Lina's smart save to keep out a close-range volley.
Brazil doubled their lead when substitute Andressa Alves netted within a minute of coming on, volleying home from close range after Marta controlled a long ball on the right and calmly picked her out.
Zhao had to be at her best to deny Marta's low effort following a mazy run, but with the Steel Roses offering little at the other end, it was simply a case of damage limitation.
She was unable to prevent Cristiane from rounding out the scoring late on, though, when the forward beat her to Andressa's free-kick and nodded home.
A largely comfortable first half for Germany saw them head into the break 2-0 up against Zimbabwe after scoring from two headers. Sara Dabritz rose to guide home a corner, and Alexandra Popp did the same with a floated cross.
Early in the second half, Zimbabwe pulled one back when Almuth Schult could only parry an effort from Rutendo Makore straight into Kudakwashe Basopo's path, and the forward made no mistake from close range.
However, Germany hit back immediately when Melanie Behringer found the net with a superb, curling free-kick from 30 yards. Behringer added another from the penalty spot after Melanie Leupolz was bowled over by Nobuhle Majika, finishing her own rebound after seeing her initial effort saved.
Leupolz netted a fifth from close range after she latched onto Popp's knockdown, and Eunice Chibanda headed into her own net late on.
The defending Olympic gold medalists and World Cup champion United States didn't waste much time getting their tournament underway in grand fashion.
After just nine minutes, Carli Lloyd was able to win a header off of a cross from Morgan Brian while flat-footed, sending a looping cross into the goal, via NBC Olympics:
NBC Olympics @NBCOlympics
#OneGoal @CarliLloyd scores first for #TeamUSA: https://t.co/B74imgNL78 https://t.co/XbLll8doXy2016-8-3 22:44:05
Alex Morgan made it two just one minute into the second half when she received the ball at the left of New Zealand's box, took advantage of the space given to her and slotted a low shot between Erin Nayler and the near post.
Rio is providing just another opportunity for the striker to continue her stellar season, via U.S. Soccer WNT:
U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt
.@alexmorgan13's goal is her team-leading 12th of 2016 and fifth in Olympic play. #USAvNZL, 2-0, 51' https://t.co/L7YJbt08Fj2016-8-3 23:06:57
While it didn't necessarily light up the scoreboard, the United States weren't presented much of a challenge from New Zealand.
The Americans bossed 65 percent of the possession, while goalkeeper Hope Solo didn't even have to make a save. They will next meet France on Saturday with a chance to grab the Group G lead.
France though went into the group lead after putting on a first-half clinic against Colombia in a 4-0 victory.
The French recorded three goals in the first half, taking the lead in the second minute off of an own goal by Carolina Arias.
Two of their goals came from direct free kicks through Camille Abily and Amel Majri strikes. It was just two of 11 shots that the French unleashed on Colombia's goal on Wednesday.
Colombia on the other hand only mustered three shots while seeing 26 percent of possession. As it tries to turn its tournament around, Colombia will meet New Zealand on Saturday.