With the group stage over, the prospect of taking home a medal is now tantalizingly close in both the men’s and women’s soccer events. For all quarterfinalists, just one more win will ensure two chances to take home some precious metal from Brazil. And for the host, the quest for a long sought after first Olympic gold in the men’s event remains, just about, alive.
Here’s a look at the key details for all eight matches coming up over the next two days.
Women’s Soccer Quarterfinals Schedule (all times EDT)
United States v Sweden (Friday, 12 p.m., NBCSN)
The three-time defending gold medalist United States was solid rather than spectacular in topping its group. Business-like wins over New Zealand and France was followed by a blip in drawing 2-2 with Colombia. And Jill Ellis’ team has reason to be wary going up against a Sweden side it has not beaten in its last three attempts, recording two draws, including at last year’s World Cup, and a defeat since former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage left to take charge of her home nation four years ago. But Sweden has not impressed in this tournament, losing 5-1 to Brazil in the group phase, while the U.S. tends to get better as tournaments progress.
China vs. Germany (Friday, 3 p.m., MSNBC)
World Cup winners in 2003 and 2007 and six-time defending European champions, Germany remains in search of its first Olympic gold. The team has certainly been entertaining to watch so far in Brazil, top-scoring with nine goals in the group phase. Yet six of those came against Zimbabwe, the match that provided its only win before a draw against Australia and defeat to Canada. Still, that was a highly competitive section and the world’s No. 2 ranked team will be favored to come through its quarterfinals, even if China rebounded from its 3-0 loss to Brazil with back-to-back clean sheets against South Africa and Sweden.
Canada vs. France (Friday, 6 p.m., CNBC)
This promises to be the tightest of the four women’s quarterfinals. Canada exceeded expectations in beating two top-five ranked nations in group play, seeing off Australia and, for the first time in its history, Germany to move through with maximum points. Despite that record, Canada has been dealt an unenviable draw in the quarterfinals in No. 3-ranked France. Les Bleues is seeking to finally deliver on its talent at a major tournament and will have particular reason for wanting to get one over its quarterfinal opponent having been beaten by Canada in the bronze-medal match four years ago.
Brazil vs. Australia (Friday, 9 p.m., NBCSN)
In comparison to the men’s team, Brazil’s women have been uplifted rather than cowered by playing in front of its home fans thus far. The two-time silver medalist conceded just one goal in three games and emphatically dispatched of both China and Sweden, with Marta showing her class once more. A goalless draw with South Africa should largely be overlooked due to the coach taking the chance to rest players. Australia will be no pushover and got a credible draw with Germany, but a 2-0 defeat to Canada in its opener suggests that it will come up short in the last eight.
Men’s Soccer Quarterfinal Schedule
Portugal vs. Germany (Saturday, 12 p.m., NBCSN, Telemundo)
Perhaps the pick of the men’s quarterfinals is first up on Saturday. Portugal hit the ground running with a victory over Argentina. And Porto striker Goncalo Paciencia, who scored a fine goal in that clash, has gone on to find the net in all three group games as a young Portugal side seeking to replicate the success of the senior football team at Euro 2016 recorded a victory over Honduras and draw with Algeria. Germany, though, has provided plenty of thrills so far, recording high-scoring draws with Mexico and South Korea before pulverizing Fiji 10-0. Freiburg front man Nils Petersen scored five goals in that last contest, but it is Arsenal’s Serge Gnabry, with five goals total to his name, who has been the attacking spark.
Nigeria vs. Denmark (Saturday, 3 p.m., NBCSN, Telemundo)
Nigeria so nearly didn’t even make it to the Olympics after the latest of the country’s unfortunate administrative bungles, but the team has certainly made the most of its time in Brazil so far. After opening up with a thrilling 5-4 win over Japan a 1-0 victory over Sweden had some dreaming about a repeat of a memorable Super Eagles side’s run to the gold medal 20 years ago. A 2-0 loss to Colombia was perhaps a reality check, but Nigeria certainly won’t be too disappointed to be handed a quarterfinal against a Denmark team that scored just one in three matches in the group phase.
South Korea vs. Honduras (Saturday, 6 p.m., CNBC, NBC Universo)
Surprise bronze medalists in London, South Korea appear capable of taking home a medal once again in Rio. Led by Tottenham forward Son Heung-min, Korea blasted eight past Fiji before drawing with Germany and then securing qualification with a hard-fought victory over defending gold medalist Mexico. Honduras also came up with the goods in the final round of group matches to see off a former gold medalist. A 1-1 draw with 2004 and 2008 winners Argentina gave Honduras a place in the quarterfinals of the Olympics for the first time. The semifinals, though, may prove a bridge too far.
Brazil vs. Colombia (Saturday, 9 p.m., NBCSN, NBC Universo)
Goalless draws against both South Africa and Iraq showed a Brazil team once again wilting under the enormous pressure of being expected to deliver ultimate glory on home soil. Olympic football may not be all that important for many countries around the world, but it is huge in Brazil, with a gold medal the only major prize to elude the men’s team. Finally the shackles came off in a 4-0 win over Denmark and the nation will hope that the win will prove a turning point in a competition it is expected to romp to victory in. A meeting with Colombia will not be straightforward, though, and will bring back memories of the two sides’ brutal meeting in Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup when the host prevailed but lost Neymar to injury.
Live Stream: All matches will be streamed via NBCOlympics.com.