Soccer: Neymar, Marta thriving as tournament enters semis

Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images
0 Comments

The field’s been shuffled in Rio for both men’s and women’s soccer.

The world’s No. 1 women’s team, the United States of America, is out.

The reigning gold medalists on the men’s side, Mexico, didn’t make it to the knockout rounds.

And we could very well be headed for the same final in both tournaments: Brazil and Germany.

While the pairing calls to mind bad vibes for Brazilians stemming from a 7-1 shellacking at the 2014 World Cup, these are still two very different teams.

Here are some things to watch as Neymar and Marta look to lead their host country to double gold.


Tuesday’s women’s semifinals — WATCH LIVE

Brazil vs. Sweden — Noon EDT
Canada vs. Germany — 3 p.m. EDT
Gold medal match — 4:30 p.m. EDT Friday

Marta and the Brazil women had a pair of blowouts to start the tournament before drawing 0-0 with Brazil and needing a shootout after another scoreless match versus Australia in the quarterfinals. It’s hard to imagine them being held off the board again, but Sweden coach Pia Sundhage is coming off a clinical shutdown of the reigning World Cup champion United States women’s national team. Anything’s possible, but look for Brazil to break out having clobbered Sweden 5-1 in the group stage.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Marta #10 of Brazil celebrates their 0-0 (7-6 PSO) win over Australia during the Women's Football Quarterfinal match at Mineirao Stadium on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 12, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
(Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

On the other side, the tournament’s two leading scorers match wits when Germany’s Melanie Behringer (four goals) and Canada’s Janine Beckie (three) meet in Brazil. Don’t think of these women as strictly finishers, as they’ve been dynamite playmakers. Germany will be favored, but Canada has perhaps the finest women’s attacker of all-time in Christine Sinclair. She’ll likely make a different on Tuesday, as might Melissa Tancredi. She scored both goals as Canada beat Germany 2-1 to claim Group F.


Wednesday’s men’s semifinals — WATCH LIVE

Brazil vs. Honduras — Noon EDT
Nigeria vs. Germany — 3 p.m. EDT
Gold medal match — 4:30 p.m. EDT Saturday

Brazil’s path to the gold medal match will have the same obstacles as most of its previous matches, albeit ratcheted up a notch. Honduras is one of the most physical, nastiest programs in the world, and persistent infringement is headed Neymar’s way. Still, the Brazilians will be widely expected to win.

On the other side of the bracket, Germany’s Serge Gnabry has been fantastic. The Arsenal youngster has been a gamechanger, but both he and Germany will have to deal with a big, gifted Nigeria team that has thrived despite controversy over travel and pay.

20-year-old Nigerian striker Oghenekaro Etebo continues to make a name for himself. Entering the games with five goals in 7 games for the senior national team, he’s added four in Rio with the U-23 side. It’s safe to say Portuguese third-tier side Feirense is getting calls.

The edge is Germany’s, but there’s no good reason to bet against Mikel John Obi (or John Obi Mikel, for those inclined to his longtime Chelsea name).

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko
Getty
0 Comments

Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Freestyle skiers in World Cup action on NBC Sports, Peacock

Ski Halfpipe
Getty
0 Comments

Olympic gold medalists David Wise and Alex Hall headline World Cup freestyle skiing and snowboarding stops in the U.S. this weekend, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

Wise, who last Sunday won his fifth X Games Aspen ski halfpipe title, led the qualifiers into the final at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in California.

He’s joined in the 10-man final by U.S. Olympic teammates Aaron Blunck and Birk Irving. The women’s ski halfpipe final includes the top three from last week’s X Games — Brit Zoe Atkin, Canadian Rachael Karker and American Svea Irving. Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China is out after suffering a knee injury in an X Games training crash.

The ski slopestyle finals include the reigning men’s and women’s Olympic gold medalists — Hall, plus Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland.

The marquee snowboarders in Mammoth finals are Olympic big air silver medalist Julia Marino (slopestyle) and X Games silver medalist Maddie Mastro (halfpipe). Two-time Olympic champion Chloe Kim is taking the season off, and another double Olympic champion, Jamie Anderson, is pregnant.

Aerials and moguls skiers are competing in their lone U.S. World Cup stop in Park City, Utah.

The moguls fields including Olympic gold medalists Walter Wallberg of Sweden, Mikael Kingsbury of the U.S., Perrine Laffont of France and Jakara Anthony of Australia. Olympic silver medalist Jaelin Kauf is the standout American.

The aerials include every member of the U.S. team that took gold at last year’s Olympics — Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld.

Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding World Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Saturday Moguls 11 a.m. CNBC, Peacock
Ski Halfpipe 3 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Sunday Ski Slopestyle 12 p.m. CNBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Aerials, Dual Moguls 2 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Snowboard Halfpipe 2 p.m. CNBC, Peacock

All NBC and CNBC coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!