Brazil women's team eager to spoil USA party
RIO DE JANEIRO
A DOMINANT United States team face stiff competition from hosts Brazil for a fifth Olympic gold medal when the women's football tournament kicks off Rio 2016 later today.
The US' quest for a fourth consecutive gold begins against New Zealand.
The world champions are without all-time leading international goalscorer Abby Wambach at a major tournament for the first time in over a decade after she retired following the World Cup last year.
However, unlike the men's Olympic tournament, there are no age restrictions on the players who can be selected.
The USA's English coach Jill Ellis can call upon World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd as well as experienced Megan Rapinoe and striker Alex Morgan.
The USA are in need of a fast start as they face a huge clash with France on Aug 6 and end the opening stage of their campaign against Colombia.
Co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn admitted previous success make the Americans heavy favourites to claim gold once more in the final on Aug 19.
Brazil have never won football gold at the Olympics.
Though the women's side would not have the same pressure and expectation as their male counterparts, there is belief they can go one better than extra-time defeats to the USA in the finals at the 2004 and 2008 Games.
Five-time World Player of the Year Marta spearheads a Brazilian team who also contains defender Formiga.
Said striker Cristiane: "Although people say we don't have to go and win the gold, for me, as someone who has played at other Olympics, won two silvers and come close to the gold, I think we are obliged to win it."
Brazil face a tough start against China, who qualified at the expense of 2012 silver medallists Japan and reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Canada last year.