Carli Lloyd grabbed a crucial second-half goal to help USA beat France in Mineirao at the 2016 Rio Olympics on Saturday. But it was a superb display from goalkeeper Hope Solo that really ensured and preserved the points.
Earlier, Canada made it two wins out of two in the women's soccer event after beating Zimbabwe 3-1 at the Corinthians Arena. The win gave the Canadians top spot in Group F, a place they kept after Germany slipped to a 2-2 draw with Australia, only after making a spirited fightback from two down.
Here are the results from Saturday's group games:
|Olympics Soccer 2016: Saturday Scores|
|F||Canada vs. Zimbabwe||3-1|
|G||Unites States vs. France||1-0|
|F||Germany vs. Austraila||2-2|
|E||China vs. South Africa||2-0|
|G||New Zealand vs. Colombia||1-0|
|E||Brazil vs. Sweden||5-1|
Here's what the group tables look like:
|Group E Standings|
|Group F Standings|
|Group G Standings|
France were threatening to overrun their opponents during a rampant first-half display. In particular, Wendie Renard was standing out and making ESPN's Julie Foudy very nervous:
Julie Foudy @JulieFoudy
Shaky moments for #USWNT in first 20. Do not want Renard get lots of looks on set pieces. #USAvFRA2016-8-6 20:17:36
Yet, for all their slick passing and dominance of possession, the French couldn't make their attacking moves count. It's a weakness Sebastian Salazar of CSN Mid-Atlantic highlighted:
Sebastian Salazar @SebiSalazarFUT
Call that a tense first half for #USWNT. France look far closer to scoring. That said, they didn't - which has been their issue. #USAvFRA2016-8-6 20:46:35
In all fairness though, it wasn't poor finishing that contributed to the malaise in front of goal. Instead it was Solo's defiant brilliance.
Her save just minutes before the break was the standout moment of the opening half.
Having stayed compact in the first half, USA opened things up at the midway point of the second half. The reward for such intent was Lloyd's opportunistic and decisive finish.
The USWNT then hung on with some resolute defending to make it a perfect start to Group G.
A Janine Beckie brace helped Canada beat Zimbabwe 3-1. Beckie scored either side of Christine Sinclair's finish from the penalty spot, as the Canadians unleashed a first-half goal blitz against their overwhelmed opponents.
Mavis Chirandu struck late for Zimbabwe, but it was merely a consolation goal. Coach John Herdman's squad has now seized control of Group F and piled the pressure on Germany.
Things got even better for Canada when Germany was held to a draw by a plucky Australia squad. Saskia Bartusiak rescued a point with two minutes left.
Her goal completed a strong comeback from 2-0 down, after Australia took the lead thanks to Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord. But Sara Daebritz reduced the deficit in first-half stoppage time to set up a nervy second half for both teams.
Canada find themselves on the brink of reaching the quarterfinals but will need to rely on results elsewhere in the group to be sure. Herdman's group is playing some bold, attacking football but lacks the guile, flair and strength both Germany and USA can boast.
In Group E, China received a goal in the late stages of each half to pull out a 2-0 victory over South Africa for its first points of the Olympics.
Gu Yasha provided the first goal in first half stoppage time when her low shot squeaked just through the legs of keeper Andile Dlamini and into the back of the net.
While South Africa looked to be the more dangerous side at time, they were lacking the final ball to break down the Chinese defense.
In the 87th minute, Tan Ruyin put the game away with a glorious strike from 40 yards out. After receiving the ball just within the halfway line, she turned and fired a lofting shot that caught Dlamini out of position.
The hosts Brazil put on a clinic to finish off Saturday's play in a 5-1 victory over Sweden, who entered the day in second place in Group E.
Both Marta and Beatriz provided braces in the match while Cristiane made some history, via ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Cristiane gets her 14th Olympic goal. #BRA - She breaks the women's/men's record of 13 (Hungary's Antal Dunai & Denmark's Sophus Nielsen).2016-8-7 01:32:57
The win all but wraps up the group for Brazil with one match remaining against South Africa. The only way it could lose the group is if it lost to South Africa while the winner of Sweden and China won by a hefty amount.