The Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo is still a couple of days away but the women’s football tournament is already underway across Japan to make enough time for the typically busy schedule.
With no age restrictions and featuring many of the world’s best players, the Olympics rivals the World Cup in the women’s international football calendar and matchday one didn’t disappoint.
Every competing nation was in action, with Sweden, Brazil and Netherlands all making big opening statements, while hot favourites United States lost an Olympics group stage match for the first time since defeat to Norway in 2008 and for only the second time ever in 25 years of competition.
Here’s a roundup of all six matches played on day one.
Great Britain 2-0 Chile
Great Britain played their first official game in nine years in a comfortable 2-0 win over Chile, with two goals from Manchester City forward Ellen White underlining their early medal hopes.
White also had an early goal disallowed for offside and GB controlled the game for almost the entirety of the 90 minutes. They will take great confidence from the result and the performance after a challenging preparation in which their only warm-up opportunity was a behind closed doors training match against New Zealand after arriving in Japan.
Although a rank outsider, Chile were surprisingly poor and even world class goalkeeper Chirstiane Endler had a few shaky moments. GB know that much tougher tests are still to come.
Japan 1-1 Canada
Hosts Japan avoided defeat in their opening match against 2012 and 2016 bronze medallists Canada thanks to a late equaliser from new Arsenal forward Mana Iwabuchi.
Canada took the lead in Sapporo when world record goalscorer Christine Sinclair netted her 187th international goal as early as the sixth minute. But the team that has often struggled to score goals on the biggest stage for a number of years couldn’t extend their lead.
Stephanie Labbe went on to save a penalty from Mina Tanaka, but Japan were then in the ascendancy and eventually got back on level terms through Iwabuchi. Sadly for Labbe, she was forced off through injury and in tears before the goal came.
China 0-5 Brazil
With so many of their players 30 or (significantly) older, this could be the last chance for a number of Brazil players to win an elusive Olympic gold medal and the Selecao set out their stall with an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of China.
Marta needed only nine minutes to open the scoring, while Debinha doubled that lead midway through the first half. China did have chances of their own that went begging and were left ruing those missed opportunities when Brazil ran away with it late on.
Marta added her second and Brazil’s third, before Andressa Alves made it four from the penalty spot and Bia Zaneratto grabbed a late fifth.
Zambia 3-10 Netherlands
European champions and World Cup runners-up Netherlands started off their Olympic journey by setting a new record for most goals scored by a team in a single game in the competition’s history. The total of 13 goals in the 10-3 win over Zambia was also an Olympic record.
The Dutch led 6-1 by half-time against the first time qualifiers, with Vivianne Miedema competing a hat-trick inside the opening half hour. Lieke Martens (2) and Shanice van de Sanden were also on the scoresheet before the interval, while the lead was eventually extended to 10-1.
Miedema finished with four, but two late consolation goals also gave Zambia’s Barbra Banda a hat-trick of her own, having also earlier scored in the first half.
Sweden 3-0 USA
Hot pre-tournament favourites for gold, the United States were stunned by Sweden for the second successive Olympics, with the Scandinavians deserved 3-0 winners.
The USWNT have a squad featuring 17 of their World Cup winners from 2019, several of whom also won it in 2015, but this is now an old team and they were second best against the Swedes, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle failing to make a difference, whether from the start or off the bench.
Stina Blackstenius, who scored when Sweden knocked the Americans out in 2016, netted twice to give her country a surprise lead. Lina Hurtig then got a third midway through the second half to seal the win and underline Sweden’s own gold medal prospects.
Australia 2-1 New Zealand
Australia looked comfortable for most of their opening 2-1 victory over New Zealand and might have had a bigger lead before the end without the efforts of Erin Nayler in goal for the Football Ferns.
Tameka Yallop, newly of West Ham, and Chelsea striker Sam Kerr each scored in the first half to give the Matildas a commanding lead over their 2023 World Cup co-hosts in just over half an hour. More chances came but Australia couldn’t find their way past Nayler a third time.
New Zealand didn’t really pose much threat until uncapped 20-year-old Gabi Rennie appeared from the bench to grab a headed consolation in stoppage time to make for a nervy final few moments.