Women’s Olympic Soccer: Gold Should Come Down To The Usual Suspects

While the men’s field seems more open than ever, Women’s Olympic Soccer in Rio will be a different story. Women’s Soccer first appeared in the Summer Olympics at the Atlanta Games in 1996. Since that time, the United States has only missed out on capturing the gold one time. Other medals have been decided by just a few other nations most of which will be in Rio when competition kicks off August 3.

If the odds makers are correct, Women’s Olympic Soccer from Rio shouldn’t stray too far from the norm. It will take major upsets to keep the United States off of the podium.

Brazil

If anyone is going to knock off the juggernaut that is the United States, Brazil is the most likely party. Despite getting an automatic bid for being the host nation, Brazil took first place in 2014 Copa America Femenina. This would have earned them the automatic bid. They beat Colombia easily in the finals.

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Brazil’s opening match against China on August 3 in Olympic Stadium should go a long way in determining the outcome of Group E. They close out round robin play with Sweden on August 6 and South Africa on August 9. Brazil has two Olympic silver medal finishes (2004 and 2008). They look to get back on the podium in Rio after being shut out of medals in 2012.

Colombia

South America’s only other representative at the Summer Olympics will be Colombia. Colombia finished second to Brazil at Copa earning a berth to Rio. This could be a team to watch. As FIFA indicated, Colombia surprised a lot of people by taking fourth place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2010. This is predominantly the same team.

Colombia opens play with France, and they follow with New Zealand. The final major test will be against the United States on August 9 with a possible spot in the quarterfinals on the line.

New Zealand

New Zealand only had to win one game to represent Oceania in Rio. What was supposed to be a two-leg playoff between them and Papua New Guinea turned into a single game. New Zealand dominated the first contest 7-1. Papua New Guinea then conceded the second to forfeit punching New Zealand’s ticket.

New Zealand will most likely find themselves out of Women’s Olympic Soccer after pool play. They open with defending champion United States. They face France on August 6, and they finish with Colombia August 9.

Canada

Team Canada will be playing in Rio with a chip on their shoulder. The 2012 Olympic Bronze Medal winners finished second yet again to the United States in the Olympic Qualifiers, 2-0. Canada does currently have the number two all-time leading scorer in women’s soccer in Christine Sinclair. Sinclair will certainly look to add to her total.

Canada will need to get past Australia, Zimbabwe, and Germany to make it to the knockout round. Don’t be surprised to see Canada playing on August 16 with a berth to the Gold Medal match on the line.

United States

The United States is once again the odds on favorite to win Olympic Gold, according to Sports Insights. Taking all but one of the gold medals so far, the United States has continued their dominance in the qualifiers knocking off Canada 2-0. Fresh off the 2015 Women’s World Cup victory, the United States looks to add another championship to their international trophy case.

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The United States eases into Olympic competition with an opening match against New Zealand. Things get a little tougher from there with France and Colombia. Anything but a trip to the finals would be considered a disappointment.

France, Germany, and Sweden

The European Qualifiers for the Olympics were based on the top three finishers from last year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada. Germany and France topped all teams from Europe. Sweden managed a spot in Rio by winning a mini-tournament in March from the three other teams tied from the World Cup, Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.

France is playing out of Group G. They face Colombia, United States, and New Zealand. Germany enters Group F with Zimbabwe, Australia, and Canada. Sweden faces South Africa, China, and Brazil out of Group E.

Australia

Australia is the surprise winner from the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They knocked off home team Japan and dispatched 2012 Silver Medalist Korea to take the top prize. Australia will not be sneaking up on anyone in the Women’s Olympic Soccer competition in Rio. With a surprise here or there, Australia could find themselves playing for a medal.

Australia does have one of the toughest draws in the tournament; they open with a tough Canada team. They then face Germany before ending the first phase against Zimbabwe.

China

China finished second in the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament after escaping Korea with a 1-0 win. China is looking to find the glory they enjoyed in 1996, when they took the silver medal in the Atlanta Games. They will need to play better than they did in the qualifiers to have a shot.

Opening with Brazil is a tough spot to be in. If China can weather that storm, they finish with South Africa and Sweden.

South Africa

South Africa’s path to Rio saw them upset Equatorial Guinea who many thought would represent Africa. This will be South Africa’s second consecutive Olympic competition. They failed to medal inn London.

South Africa opens with Sweden. If they manage to qualify for the quarterfinals, they will need to stay close to China and Brazil. They will most likely need to pick up one of the third place qualifiers to continue playing after pool play closes.

Zimbabwe

Africa’s other qualifier is Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe had a tough time getting to Rio. Controversy in the second leg of qualifying against Côte d’Ivoire saw them out of the competition and then back in. Eventually Côte d’Ivoire withdrew paving the way for a matchup with Cameroon. Zimbabwe beat Cameroon securing their spot in the Women’s Olympic Soccer Tournament.

Zimbabwe may have the worst of it in Rio. They open with Germany. They follow with Canada and then a pesky Australian team.

Women’s Olympic Soccer opens two days before the Opening Ceremonies on August 5. While there are some young teams coming on, the championship will most likely come down to just three or four teams. Do you think the United States will repeat, or will this be the year they are knocked off?

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