Hosts Britain, reigning champions the US and world champions Japan all sealed their places in the quarter-finals of the women’s soccer tournament on Saturday, with medal hopefuls Brazil and Sweden joining them.
North Korea had a chance to make the last eight, but lost it when they were crushed 5-0 by France at Hampden Park after conceding four goals in the last 20 minutes.
Japan’s 0-0 draw with Sweden in Coventry, combined with other results later in the day, meant both qualified from Group F, at worst as one of the two best third-placed teams in the three group competition.
The top two teams in each group qualify, along with the best two third-placed finishers.
Britain, competing for the first time, were too strong for African champions Cameroon and won 3-0 in Group E in front of 31,000 fans at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, to follow up their historic first win against New Zealand on Wednesday.
The US, bidding for a third successive gold, also won 3-0 against Colombia in Group G in Glasgow, while Brazil, bidding for a first Olympic soccer gold, beat New Zealand 1-0 at Cardiff in Group E with another goal from Cristiane, whose overall tally of 12 is an Olympic all-time scoring record.
And although Japan were held by Sweden, who themselves are hoping for a medal, both are assured of a last eight place as they both have four points from their two matches and will either finish first, second or third in the group.
The third-placed team in Group E cannot finish with a better record than either of them, so they are through.
Canada, beaten by Japan in their opening match, rekindled their chances of advancing with a 3-0 win over South Africa.
Britain always looked like winning their match in Cardiff after Casey Stoney and Jill Scott put them 2-0 ahead after 23 minutes. Steph Houghton, who scored England’s first ever Olympic goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over New Zealand wrapped up the points with the third in the 82nd minute.
British coach Hope Powell said afterward: “We are happy to win the game. They were very physical and quick, but we were disciplined and we executed all three goals well.”
The US followed up their opening win against France with a solid performance against Colombia, with goals from Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, with her 140th international goal, and Carli Lloyd, with the last two goals coming in the last 16 minutes.
The women’s competition, unlike the men’s, is open to players of all ages, with the top two from each of the three groups and the best two third-placed teams going into the knockout stages.