By Paul Kennedy
Olympic women's soccer left the taste of what might have been. A USA-Brazil semifinal at Maracana Stadium
would have been awesome. As would have been -- for the cause of women's soccer -- a Brazil gold medal.
They weren't meant to be. (Tack
, Pia.) But there was still plenty to be
excited about (and disappointed with) the sixth women's soccer competition. Winners ... DZSENIFER MAROZSAN.
Hungarian-born midfielder scored the winning goal and her free kick hit the post on the play that led to the second goal for Germany in the gold-medal game against Sweden. She's still only 24 but
seems to have been around forever. She was only 14 when she made her Frauen-Bundesliga debut for FC Saarbruecken and she led Germany to the 2008 Under-17 and 2010 Under-20 Women's World Cup
titles. An injury kept her at less than 100 percent at the 2015 Women's World Cup. She'll join European champion Lyon for the 2016-17 season. SILVIA NEID.
The German head coach retires with four championships
-- two Euros, one Women's World Cup and one Olympics --
in eight major competitions, equaling the record of her predecessor, Tina Theune (three Euros and one Women's World Cup). The only other coach to win both the Women's World Cup and Olympics is former
U.S. coach Tony DiCicco. Neid's successor will be German-American Steffi Jones, who headed the organizing committee for the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany. PIA SUNDHAGE.
Sundhage led the USA to Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and second place at the 2011 Women's World Cup but success eluded her in her native Sweden. After the Swedes exited in the second round of
the 2015 Women's World Cup, there was speculation that she wouldn't return for the fourth and final year of her contract as head coach. Sweden was given little chance against USA and Brazil but it
managed to outlast both teams in shootouts and win its first ever Olympic medal -- silver -- thanks to Sundhage's effective game plans
. CHRISTINE SINCLAIR.
Sinclair is the greatest soccer
player Canada has ever produced. Her 165th international goal -- second all-time behind only Abby Wambach's 184 goals -- came in her 250th game for Canada and earned it a second straight bronze medal
with a 2-1 win over Brazil. Afterward, she said she almost didn't play this year
both parents in (different) hospitals in the winter and then losing her father Bill in April. "I was not going to leave here without a medal," she said. "There were days where I didn’t think
I’d be here.” CATALINA USME.
The 26-year-old Colombian with the ponytail Mohawk had the game of her life
in the Cafeteras' final group match against the USA. She single-handedly
earned them an improbable 2-2 draw with two goals off free kicks -- the first two goals Colombia has ever scored against the USA -- and almost scored a third goal off a free kick as it hit off the
crossbar. Hopefully, Usme's performance will boost awareness for women's soccer in Colombia. (Breaking: The Colombian soccer federation has announced interest in bidding for the 2023 Women's World
Women's soccer averaged 28,703 fans for 17 dates at the Rio Olympics, more than any Olympics since Atlanta 1996. The largest crowd of 70,454 for the
Brazil-Sweden semifinal at the Maracana Stadium outdrew the Brazil-Honduras men's game at the same Rio venue the next night by almost 18,000 fans. Losers ... USA.
The record will show the USA exited the
Olympics without a loss
and its record for the year is 16-0-3 with a goal difference of 58-7, but the shootout defeat to Sweden in the quarterfinals hurt. It cost the women another week in the
international spotlight -- a Brazil-USA semifinal at Maracana Stadium would have one of the highlights of the Olympics -- and exciting youngsters like Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh a chance to play in
two more matches in a big-game environment. The USA's next competitive test -- we're excluding Concacaf -- won't come until 2019. A long wait. MARTA.
The Olympics started brightly
for Marta and her Brazilian teammates, opening with 3-0 and 5-1 victories and winning fans
. But they were the last goals Brazil scored until a late consolation goal in the bronze-medal game against Canada. It failed to score in consecutive 0-0 draws with South Africa,
Australia and Sweden. After the bronze-medal game loss to Canada, tearful Marta, who was playing in her fourth and probably last Olympics, asked that Brazilian fans keep supporting women's soccer.
(The Brazilian federation hinted that it will drop the full-time national team program implemented to prepare for the Olympics.) HOPE SOLO.
Solo's comments after the shootout loss
to Sweden -- she called them
"a bunch of cowards" for their defensive tactics -- might not have earned
her the gold medal for the Ugly American at the Olympics -- Ryan Lochte
lapped her on the final turn -- but it certainly earned her the silver medal. U.S. players rarely call out each other,
but even teammates Alex Morgan
and Megan Rapinoe
publicly broke ranks with Solo. Her comments distracted from attention about what went right -- and wrong -- with the U.S. women in
Another player unafraid to call out her teammates was Camille Abily
. After highly regarded France failed to get past the quarterfinals for the third straight
tournament, Abily, the former WPS player, said the Bleues had plenty of talent but lacked "match-winners." She was part of the team that burst on the scene when France finished fourth at the 2011
Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympics. But after a disappointing showing in Brazil, Abily -- a major disappointment -- and others may have to make way as France prepares to host the 2017 Women's World