United States kept their quest for fourth straight women’s football gold firmly on track when captain Carli Lloyd ensured a 1-0 victory over France to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Brazil are also into the last eight as, inspired by a near 60,000 capacity crowd at the Rio Olympic Stadium and two goals from five-time world player of the year Marta, they thrashed Sweden 5-1.
The United States are now unbeaten in 13 Olympic matches and a year on from scoring a hat-trick in the World Cup final, Lloyd has once again been the United States’ inspiration in Brazil.
After netting the US opener in a 2-0 win against New Zealand on Wednesday, she slotted home the only goal in Belo Horizonte after Tobin Heath’s initial effort came back off the post.
The US team are assured of their place in the knockout rounds as at least one of the two best third-placed sides, but can secure top spot in Group H with just a point against Colombia on Tuesday.
– Solo save –
France had impressed in thrashing Colombia 4-0 in their opening game and had the better of the first 45 minutes.
However, American keeper Hope Solo made a huge save to deny Marie Laure Delie on her 200th international appearance.
The world champions improved after the break and were rewarded when Lloyd was characteristically in the right place at the right time to score her 90th international goal.
New Zealand beat Colombia 1-0 in the other game in the Group to move level with France on three points.
In contrast to their male counterparts, who stumbled 0-0 with South Africa under the pressure to deliver Brazil’s first Olympic football gold, the hosts’ women have been the most impressive side in the tournament.
Fresh from dusting off China 3-0 in their opener, Brazil tore Sweden apart to go in 3-0 up at the break.
Beatriz nipped in ahead of Sweden ‘keeper Hadvig Lindahl for the opener before Cristiane extended her record as all-time top scorer in the Olympics with her 14th goal in her fourth Games.
Marta played against the country where she has played club football for the past four years, just 24 hours after carrying the Olympic flag into the Maracana during the opening ceremony.
However, she looked far from jaded as she converted Brazil’s third from the penalty spot before doubling her tally with a fantastic finish 10 minutes from time.
Beatriz curled home her second six minutes later before Lotta Schelin netted a consolation goal for Sweden.
Tan Ruyin scored with a sensational dipping drive from over 40 yards out as China moved into second in Group E with a 2-0 win over South Africa.
Canada are also through to the knockout stages after sealing their second win in as many games against tournament debutants Zimbabwe 3-1 in Sao Paulo.
Janine Beckie scored twice, whilst veteran striker Christine Sinclair scored her 163rd international goal from the penalty spot.
Two-time world champions Germany came back from 2-0 down against Australia to move into second in Group F.
The Matildas looked set to bounce back from their opening 2-0 defeat to Canada thanks to first-half goals from Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord.
However, Sara Daebritz pulled a goal back immediately and Saskia Bartusiak snatched a point two minutes from time. – Agence France-Presse