Host City: Beijing, China
Venue(s): Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium, Qinhuangdao; Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai; Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Stadium, Shenyang; Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium, Tianjin; Workers Stadium, Beijing
Date Started: August 6, 2008
Date Finished: August 21, 2008
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament of four teams.
The women's tournament was well attended, with seven of the quarter-finalists of the 2007 World Cup competing. (The only missing team was England, because Great Britain does not enter Olympic football tournaments.). Remarkably though, the last team to qualify was losing finalist Brazil, which had did not qualify directly from the continental qualifier. Other title contenders were Germany, the World Champion, and the United States, two-time Olympic Champion.
The favourites had a tough preliminary round, with Germany and Brazil opening against each other in a goal-less draw, while the US lost their first match to Norway. But the trio made it through to the semi-finals, supplemented by Japan, which upset the host nation in the quarter-finals. Led by star players Cristiane and Marta, the Brazilians took revenge for the lost World Cup final, beating Germany 4-1. Their opponent in the final was the same as in Athens. The United States overcame an earlier goal by Japan to win 4-2, and reached their fourth Olympic final in the fourth Olympic football tournament for women.
Like the previous women's finals, the last match was a close affair. After the full 90 minutes, neither of the teams had scored. For the third time in succession, the Olympic final went into overtime. After six minutes, midfielder Carli Lloyd opened the score with a shot from just outside the box. Both teams then had good goal scoring changes in the remainder, but failed to convert them, and the United States won their third Olympic gold medal. With Germany winning the bronze medal match, the three podium nations were the same as they had been in 2004.
Though the US women had won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004, World Cups in 1991 and 1999, and never failed to be on the podium at either event, the past year had been tumultuous for the American team. At the 2007 World Cup, the US faced Brazil in the semi-finals. The US goal keeper throughout the tournament had been Hope Solo, but US coach Greg Ryan benched her for the match against Brazil, replacing her with Brianna Scurry, formerly the top US keeper, but now in the twilight of her career. With Scurry in goal, Brazil crushed the Americans 4-0. Solo did not go quietly, telling the press quite firmly that her benching should not have happened, and that she would not have allowed those goals. After those remarks, Ryan threw Solo off the team for the bronze medal match and the US players refused to allow her to return to the team. Ryan was fired as national coach shortly after the World Cup. It was not until Sweden’s Pia Sundhage (a 1996 Olympian) was chosen to replace Ryan as coach that Solo was invited back to the national team.
Then shortly before the Beijing Olympics, further problems arose for the US in a friendly against Brazil. In that match, their final warm-up for the Olympics, American star striker Abby Wambach broke her tibia in a collision with Andreía Rosa. Wambach had surgery and could not play at the Olympics. With her scoring prowess missing, and the uncertainty of Solo in goal, the United States was considered somewhat of a mystery team in Beijing.