Rio 2016 - Women's Football Group G Preview: Will USA win Gold once again?

In the supposed Group of Death, who will come out on top?

Rio 2016 - Women's Football Group G Preview: Will USA win Gold once again?
Image credit: VAVEL

The third group of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics includes the USA who have won four out of the five Women's Football tournaments at the Olympics. 2012's fourth-placed side France will provide a threat, and New Zealand and Colombia will provide challenging threats to the two favourites.

United States of America

There is no doubt who the favourites are for both this group and the tournament. Since Women's Football became an Olympic sport in 1996, the USA have appeared in every single final and have won four of them. The one final they lost came in 2000 when Norway beat them 3-2 after extra time. And, of course, to add to that, they are the current World Cup holders.

Their squad is full of experience and strength. Hope Solo will almost certainly win her 200th cap at the tournament, and World Cup Final hat-trick hero Carli Lloyd will be instrumental in their attacking play. In America's past two major finals (2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup), she scored critical goals. She also scored the winner in the 2008 Olympics Final against Brazil.

USA celebrate winning the Gold Medal at the 2012 Games. Photo: IOC/Jason Evans
USA celebrate winning the Gold Medal at the 2012 Games. Photo: IOC/Jason Evans
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They will be captained by FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn who currently sits on 108 caps.

Before Head Coach Jill Ellis named her 18-player squad, there were concerns over Megan Rapinoe's fitness but Ellis clearly decided that she was too important to leave behind.

There are some exciting young players, like 18-year-old forward Mallory Pugh who has scored twice in her first ten caps.

New Zealand

New Zealand qualified for their third straight Olympics after winning their OFC Women's Olympic Qualifying tournament. As the highest ranking OFC country in the FIFA rankings, they only had to participate in the final stage which this time was against Papua New Guinea – who had won the 2015 Pacific Games Women's Football Tournament.

In 2012, they reached the quarter-finals where they were knocked out by the USA. This was an improvement from 2008 where they finished bottom of their group.

Despite having a talented squad, they are unlikely to finish in the top two spots – and therefore will be competing with Colombia to claim one of the two best-placed third positions.

Their attacking threat will come from Amber Hearn, Sarah Gregorius, Rosie White and Hannah Wilkinson, but they will also be a difficult side to break down. 

At the back, right-back Ria Percival and captain Abby Erceg have 242 caps between them and keeper Erin Nayler will have to be at her very best.

France

France will be looking to improve on their fourth-placed finish at the 2012 games. That was their first ever appearance at the Olympics.

Eugenie Le Sommer against England at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Eugenie Le Sommer against England at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

The French, who host the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, qualified as one of the top three European finishers at the 2015 World Cup – where they were knocked out in the Quarter-Finals on penalties by Germany.

French Head Coach Phillippe Bergeroo had to make a late change to his squad, with Sakina Karchaoui replacing Laura Georges who withdrew due to an injury.

Unsurprisingly, the squad is dominated by Lyon players,  with only four players playing for different clubs. And only Amandine Henry (Portland Thorns) and Élise Bussaglia (VfL Wolfsburg) play outside of France.

Up front France are a dangerous side. Eugénie Le Sommer is a prolific goal scorer and Élodie Thomis' pace is lethal. And Louisa Nécib and Marie-Laure Delie will provide a further threat.

Henry and Camille Abily will both be critical parts of the French midfield perhaps in more of a holding role.

Colombia

Colombia qualified for their second Olympics, having finished second at the 2014 Copa América Femenina. At the 2012 Olympics, they also faced the USA in their group, losing 3-0 and going on to finish bottom with zero points. 

But as they showed at the 2015 World Cup, where they won over many neutrals, they are an improving side and beat France 2-1 at the group stage. They also were the first women's international team to concede a goal through goal-line technology in their 1-1 draw with Mexico. Their World Cup dream came to an end when they lost 2-0 to the USA in the Round of 16.

It is quite clear who Colombia's danger player is, Lady Andrade, whose quick feet lit up the World Cup. The other three teams will have to develop a plan to keep her quiet.

 Lady Andrade celebrates scoring against France at the 2015 World Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Lady Andrade celebrates scoring against France at the 2015 World Cup. Photo: Getty Images