The FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 feels like yesterday in some ways. The whole of Vancouver’s BC Place shook when Carli Lloyd completed her hat-trick within the first 16 minutes in USA’s stunning 5-2 win over Japan in the final, and the deafening noise of the crowd that day can almost still be heard. Now in Brazil, it’s time for a new chapter to be written in women’s football. Twelve nations compete across the country, from the Amazon in Manaus to the coasts of Rio de Janeiro, to kick off a month when the world stops to celebrate sport. FIFA.com previews the first matchday of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. Whose moment in women’s football history will it be in Brazil?
Match of the day Brazil-China PR, 3 August, 16.00 (local time) The country’s eyes will be firmly on the third kick-off of the day when hosts Brazil face a challenging first test against China. Led by Marta, Brazil will be feeling confident following their 3-1 win over Australia in a warm-up match in front of over 10,000 fans in Fortaleza. China, now under the leadership of former France head coach Bruno Bini, have been getting plenty of practice minutes in before their Rio 2016 opener—losing 1-0 to France and Canada and defeating Zimbabwe 3-0—and are aiming to get to the podium themselves. Not only will Brazil be motivated by playing in front of their country at home on the world’s stage, but they will no doubt be determined to put together a better run than they did in Canada last summer, where they were defeated by Australia in the Round of 16.
The other matches Along with Brazil-China, Canada-Australia is another one of the most even matches on paper. Both sides dropped out of Canada 2015 at the quarter-final stage and will be looking build on their encouraging performances at the world finals. Both teams also have a young core to their squads and play progressive brands of football. Holders USA start their medal defence against New Zealand in Belo Horizonte on the back of a string of wins in warm-up matches. There’s a new generation ready to shine for the Stars and Stripesin Brazil; Crystal Dunn, Mallory Pugh and Lindsey Horan are now regulars in Jill Ellis’ side. Can the Football Ferns cause a shock? If they are to do so, they will need to be clinical in front of goal. "Defensively we're a solid team. On a personal level I think we need to be a lot more clinical and attack-minded. That’s where games are won. What we need to focus more on is winning consistently and finishing matches earlier, rather than chasing the game or scraping through with a draw,” New Zealand forward Amber Hearn told FIFA.com.
Gold medal challengers Germany begin their campaign against debutants Zimbabwe in Sao Paulo. Silvia Neid’s side is expected to win, but there’s no doubt Zimbabwe will be putting up a challenge of their own, towards being what they hope will be a breakthrough tournament for their country. France-Colombia brings to mind memories of one of the true shock results at Canada 2015 when Las Cafeteras defeated France in the group stages. Colombia will look back at that match fondly, in a game that marked a huge step forward for their programme, and it was a win they thoroughly deserved on the day. France has talent across the pitch, but can they finally turn talent into a major tournament triumph?
Sweden and South Africa will have the honour of kicking the first ball at Rio 2016. The Swedes head into the match with confidence, having defeated Japan 3-0 in a warm-up game. Coach Pia Sundhage will be hoping forward Lotta Schelin brought her scoring boots with her to Rio, while South Africa, under coach Vera Pauw, will look to be competitive in each game. “The aim [for Rio] is to make an impact,” Pauw told FIFA.com. “It’s key that players are seen and recognised in their abilities, that South Africa can add something to international women’s football.”
Player to watch Marta (Brazil) All eyes will be on the five-time Women’s World Player of the Year. Having taken silver on two occasions at the Olympic Football Tournament, the opening match against a tough Chinese team will be crucial in setting the tone for a campaign in which the hosts are desperate to win gold in front of their home fans. If Marta is in top form, their dream may be closer to reality.
The stat 11 –Four-time Olympic gold medalists USA are currently on a record run of 11 consecutive wins in the Olympic Football Tournament. Their last defeat in the competition came in a 2-0 loss to Norway in the Beijing 2008 opener. If the Stars and Stripes defeat New Zealand, they will double the next best series of victories, set by Norway between 2000-08.
The words “I don’t think anything compares to the expectations we have for one another. We know how difficult it will be to be back-to-back winners. That pressure drives us. We always look for that next challenge because we constantly want to achieve that next level of greatness. People expect us to win, we know what it actually takes to win and that comes with a different level of accountability and sacrifice.” USA co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn, in an interview with ussoccer.com
Match schedule Group E Sweden-South Africa (Olympic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, 13.00) Brazil-China PR (Olympic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, 16.00)
Group F Canada-Australia (Corinthians Arena, Sao Paulo, 15.00) Zimbabwe-Germany (Corinthians Arena, Sao Paulo, 18.00)
Group G USA-New Zealand (Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 19.00) France-Colombia (Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 22.00)
Edgardo Bauza is Argentina’s new national team coach. The appointment was announced on Monday 1 August by Armando Perez, the chair of the Argentinian Football Association’s Regularisation Committee.
“We’ve spent the last five days working, and one of the most important things was appointing a new coach,” said Perez at a short press conference held at the AFA’s offices in Buenos Aires. “We have decided therefore to name Edgardo Bauza as the national team coach. We hope he enjoys the success we need.
“The contract has to be as long as possible. If things go well, it will run up to Russia,” said Perez, who did not deny having met with other coaches, among them Miguel Angel Russo and Ramon Diaz. He also confirmed that the AFA had been in discussion with Sevilla about the possibility of triggering the sizeable release clause in the contract the Spanish club has just signed with Jorge Sampaoli.
The 58-year-old Bauza was in discussions with Sao Paulo late on Monday, putting an end to his contract with the Brazilian club, which announced the news of his appointment on social media, before the AFA press conference.
“Sao Paulo FC wishes to announce that it has been informed by Edgardo Bauza that he has received an offer from the AFA on Monday evening to coach the national team and will now leave his post as Tricolor coach,” it said in its statement. “Appointed at the start of the season, El Patón leaves the club after eight months, having done a significant amount of rebuilding work.”
Next steps In replacing Gerardo Martino, who vacated the national team job on 5 July, Bauza will become Argentina’s sixth coach in the last decade. Perez said he would be officially unveiled on Friday 5 August in Buenos Aires.
Bauza’s first assignment as Albiceleste coach will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying double header at home to Uruguay and away to Venezuela in September. In the meantime, he will have to find out if he can count on the services of Lionel Messi, who retired from international football following the defeat to Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario. “Bauza is in contact with him, or he will be,” said Perez.
From pitch to dugout Born in Granadero Baigorria, Santa Fe, Bauza started out at Rosario Central, the club where he spent most of his 15-year playing career, excelling as a disciplined yet combative central defender with a gift for goalscoring. So adept was he at finding the back of the net, in fact, that he lies fourth behind Ronald Koeman, Daniel Passarella and Fernando Hierro as the highest-scoring defender of all time with 108 goals.
A contemporary of Passarella and Oscar Ruggeri’s, Bauza enjoyed few opportunities with the national team, though he did form part of the squad that finished runners-up at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™. “He was always the ultimate professional. He never complained about not playing a single minute at that World Cup,” said an appreciative Carlos Bilardo, who coached that Albiceleste team.
Bauza’s first coaching appointment came at his beloved Rosario Central, in 1998, six years after he hung up his boots, with current Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi among the players under his tutelage. The new coach almost tasted success straightaway, taking Central to the final of the 1998 Copa Conmebol and to the runners-up slot in the Argentinian Apertura the following year.
Striking a balance “I can be a very hard taskmaster when it comes to work,” he told the magazine El Gráfico, describing his approach to his job. Skilled in the art of putting together defensively well-drilled teams, Bauza has made a habit of getting the most out of the squads at his disposal and treating all players alike, regardless of their status.
He proved that in 2008 by making Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito the first Ecuadorian club to win the Copa Libertadores, a triumph sealed against Fluminense at the Estadio Maracana. Liga de Quito went on to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup that year, going down 1-0 to Manchester United.
Mighty Argentinian club San Lorenzo then turned to him in their continuing quest to win their first Libertadores, with ElPatón duly obliging, becoming the first coach to lift the trophy with two clubs from different countries.
“That team played very direct football in winning the Argentinian title. They were formidable going forward but lacked solidity at the back. What we did was find a little balance. That was the key to success,” he told FIFA.com before appearing at his second Club World Cup, where he lost another final, this time to Real Madrid, by two goals to nil.
Bauza was given another restructuring job by Sao Paulo. And not for the first time, he was up to the task, steering the Brazilians to the semi-finals of this year’s Libertadores, where they lost to eventual champions Atletico Nacional.
“Who wouldn’t want to coach the national team?” said the Argentinian coach after that defeat, responding to rumours of his possible appointment as Albiceleste boss.
The experienced Bauza now has the task of convincing Messi to return to the national team fold, which will be crucial to ensuring he achieves his first objective of securing Argentina’s place at Russia 2018.