The first two days of Olympic football are over, and the action has been both explosive and unpredictable. We can also describe it as tactical football gone awry, creating predictable winners but with very unlikely results.
It’s been largely wonderful to watch, but what can we take away from those opening days? Let’s find out.
The quality of women’s football
I’m a football fan, but until these Olympics I’ve never watched the women’s game. I’m not sure whether I thought it would be inferior or not, but I did think it would be less competitive. Not in the sense that women can’t battle but in the sense that you have professional female athletes versus amateurs.
On opening day, my shortsightedness was cured. Even the capitulation of Colombia and Zimbabwe didn’t seem like professionals vs amateurs. The likes of USA and Germany nostalgically reminded me what the beautiful game used to look like.
I cannot wait to see today’s fixtures, especially the USA versus France. It should be a fantastic game of football.
Nigeria versus Japan
If you didn’t watch Nigeria against Japan and consider yourself a football fan, then you missed out.
It started with 12 minutes of action that would make Michael Bay blush. It was schoolboy football but in a way which was refreshing compared to the staunch international game that was mostly shown during the European Championships in France.
Oghenekaro Etebo scored four goals for Nigeria, and there were two penalties along with nine goals from 24 attempts. It wasn’t pretty, but it was entertaining to watch.
Nigeria is up against Sweden and Japan against Colombia on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Expect those matches to be like old-fashioned heavyweight boxing fights, as none of these teams seem capable of defending for very long.
Goals goals goals!
In two days, which consisted of 14 games of football between the men’s and women’s games, there were 51 goals.
In the European Championship, there was 51 matches and 108 goals in total. The most notable statistic is that in the 14 matches at the Olympics so far there has been 368 goal-scoring chances overall.
For as much as teams came to defend in Euro 2016, everyone has come to attack in the Olympics, and it’s making for entertaining football.
Sweden’s Mikael Ishak scored the best goal so far. It was a top corner blast that hit the net so quickly the goalkeeper’s dive was more an afterthought. Even in the replay, you can see the goalkeeper looking back at the ball as it flew into the net mid-dive.
It is moments like this that make a memorable competition.
South Korea’s incentive works
South Korea have an unusual incentive to reach the medal podium. The reward is that their players won’t have to serve military duty, and that incentive seemed to work like a charm against Fiji.
It was 1-0 at halftime, so it must have been one hell of a team talk because by full time the score was 8-0. South Korea had created 32 chances, 18 of which had been on target.
Perhaps the coach just reminded the players of their special incentive, as South Korea came out like a team possessed in the second half. If South Korea continue to play like this they’ll definitely win a medal in Rio. They play Germany on Sunday in what could turn out to be the game of the tournament so far. We recommend you check it out.
Attendances so far
The organizers should have gone out of their way to ensure those opening two days of football didn’t go under the radar. Almost every early game seemed to be played in front of an overwhelmingly empty stadium.
It didn’t impact the football on display but does make us question whether football fans in Brazil have the financial ability to buy tickets. Or whether the fans are staying away amid fears of the Zeka virus and crime.
In an attempt to help attendance, Olympic officials are reportedly giving away 240,000 free tickets to the poor. This may help attendance if the problem was financial, but free tickets won’t encourage fans if they’re concerned by other publicized issues.
Fingers crossed that the next rounds of fixtures this weekend have more support. We already know they’ll likely be full of excitement, as the football being played in Rio is easily better than the regularly sold-out Euro 2016 games.