Melanie Behringer

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).

Behringer, Germany cruise past Zimbabwe in women’s soccer opener

Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images
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Melanie Behringer and Melanie Leupolz each picked up a brace as Germany comfortably moved to a 6-1 win over Zimbabwe in both sides’ Olympic opener on Wednesday at Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.

Germany climbs atop Canada for the Group F lead after one match on goal differential, and Zimbabwe sits last behind Australia.

Sara Dabritz and Alexandra Popp also scored for Germany, while Kudakwashe Bhasopo scored the lone goal from Zimbabwe (who also had an own goal).

Up next for Germany is Australia on Saturday, when Zimbabwe meets Canada.

MORE: Highlights/match replay here

It could’ve been a much worse score line for Zimbabwe, as Germany had seemingly countless shots deflect over, go wide, or just plain hit the frame.

Zimbabwe defender Lynett Mutokuto somehow escaped punishment — not even a foul — when her lunging studs caught Germany’s Simone Laudehr on the ankle. Leupolz of Bayern Munich replaced Laudehr.

Germany went ahead soon after, as Dabritz rose high to head Dzsenifer Marozsán’s corner kick toward the back post. Her sixth international goal gave the favorites a 1-0 edge in the 23rd minute.

Anja Mittag missed the frame with the 11th German attempt of the match, as the chances were 11-0 just over a half hour into the proceedings.

Popp made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, taking advantage of a moment’s hesitance from Zimbabwe keeper Lindiwe Magwede to power Leupolz’s cross home with a header.

Rutendo Makore’s quick move from the left ended with a shot that surprised German ‘keeper Almuth Schult, and Bhasopo was on the doorstep to slot home the rebound.

Behringer had been knocking on the door all night, and finally found her goal with a gorgeous free kick to restore the 2-goal cushion.

Her second goal was indicative of Germany’s match, as Berhinger saw her penalty kick saved only to push the rebound underneath the off-balance Magwede. Popp flicked on for Leupolz to score Germany’s fifth goal moments later.