Janine Beckie

Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Soccer: Neymar, Marta thriving as tournament enters semis

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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).