Empty feeling as Brazil, USA women off to winning start

Rio De Janeiro—Hosts Brazil and world champions the United States made winning starts in the Olympics women’s football tournament on Wednesday although the competition met with a lukewarm response from fans.
Brazil comfortably saw off the challenge of China 3-0 at the Olympic stadium in Rio thanks to goals from Monica, Andressa Alves and Cristiane.
The United States began their quest for a fifth Olympic gold in six Games with a 2-0 win over New Zealand in Belo Horizonte.
World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd opened the scoring before Alex Morgan added a second.
However, the opening day of action saw vast swathes of empty seats across Brazil with six cities that hosted the 2014 World Cup being used for both women’s and men’s Olympic tournaments.
The first match of the Games saw Sweden beat South Africa 1-0 in front of an almost empty 60,000-seater Olympic stadium in Rio.
A healthier crowd enjoyed Brazil’s win with expectations high that five-time World Player of the Year Marta can inspire the hosts to go one better than the silver medals they won at the 2004 and 2008 Games and end the USA’s run of three straight golds.
The 30-year-old, playing in her fourth Olympics, showed flashes of brilliance, even prompting the crowd to chant she was better than Brazilian football’s golden boy Neymar.
“Scoring three times against a team like China, with all the pressure we had, I think it’s super-perfect,” said Marta.
Brazil’s opener came in bizarre fashion when Monica’s tame header trickled past a sea of Chinese defenders and Zhao into the bottom corner.
Marta then showed her class by creating the second on the hour mark as she skipped down the right before picking out Andressa Alves for a volleyed finish.
Only a stunning save from Zhao prevented Marta sealing the win in style after a fine solo run and shot that was arrowing towards the bottom corner. Marta was then replaced to a rousing reception before Cristiane nipped in ahead of Zhao to head home the third.—AFP

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