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The women of Team USA were front and center on this first day of Olympic competition. Sweden dealt the U.S. women's soccer team a crushing loss on the first day of group play, ending the American women's 44-game stretch without a loss. Expected to contend for gold in softball, the United States got its campaign underway with a victory over Italy thanks to strong a performance from some of its star athletes. Here's how it all went down on Wednesday.
After a 13-year hiatus, softball made its return to the Olympics Wednesday in Fukushima, and the top two teams in the world rankings both opened play with wins as they head toward a potential gold medal clash.
Host nation Japan kicked things off by notching an 8-1 victory over Australia. The pitching staff, led by 2008 Olympian Ueno Yukiko, held Australia to just two hits, and the Japanese offense delivered three home runs in the blowout performance. The final homer, a two-run shot from Yamamoto Yu in the fifth inning, immediately ended the game by invoking the run ahead rule.
The United States was next to take the field, but their matchup with Italy proved to be a much more competitive affair. Italian pitcher Greta Cecchetti held the Americans hitless for three innings before the bats started to come alive. Michelle Moultrie and Janie Reed each delivered an RBI in the next two innings to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead, which was more than enough for veteran pitchers Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott. Osterman started the game and struck out nine batters while allowing just one hit in six innings, then Abbott struck out the side in the 7th inning to finish off the game.
Japan and the U.S. are considered the favorites in this tournament. The two teams met in the final of the 2008 Olympics, which resulted in Japan upsetting the Americans to win gold. That was the last time softball was played at the Olympics, but the two teams have continued to dominate the international game since then. They'll meet on the final day of round-robin play, and could then potentially play again in the gold medal final one day later — but only if they continue taking care of business during the preliminary round.
Japan def. Australia 8-1
USA def. Italy 2-0
Canada def. Mexico 4-0
Sweden stunned the U.S. with a 3-0 loss on the first day of soccer group play, handing the reigning World Cup champions their first shutout since 2017.
This ends a 44-match unbeaten streak for the U.S. women, whose last loss came back in 2019. American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher put up some commendable saves, but Stina Blackstenius opened scoring at Tokyo Stadium in the 25th minute, struck again 54 minutes in and was followed up by a Lina Hurtig goal at 72 minutes. Several U.S. players, including Tobin Heath and Christen Press, were positioned for goals but fell short.
Sweden, which knocked the U.S. out of medal contention at the 2016 Rio Games, continues Group G play on Saturday, July 24 at 4:30 a.m. ET against Australia. Later that morning, the U.S. will face New Zealand at 7:30 a.m. ET.
Sweden was just one of three teams that blanked its opponent in its first match of the Games. Great Britain shut out Chile, 2-0, and Brazil breezed past China with a 5-0 win. Netherlands scored the most goals of the day, bowling past Zambia, 10-3. Barbra Banda's three goals for Zambia gave the country its first hat trick in an Olympic soccer match.
Group play for the men's soccer tournament begins on Thursday, July 22 starting at 3:30 a.m. ET. Brazil and Germany face off at 7:30 a.m. ET in a rematch of the Rio gold-medal match. Group play for the women continues on Saturday, July 24 beginning at 3:30 a.m. ET.
Great Britain def. Chile 2-0
Brazil def. China 5-0
Sweden def. USA 3-0
Japan drew Canada 1-1
Netherlands def. Zambia 10-3
Australia def. New Zealand 2-1