The draw for the women’s football competition at this Summer’s Olympics in Rio was made at the Maracanã earlier today.
Two Brazilian footballing greats, Aline and Ronaldinho, were on hand to help make the draw.
Whilst the men’s tournament that runs parallel might be more of a secondary thought, especially for European teams, the women’s competition in regarded as the second biggest in the women’s footballing world. Every team involved will be vying for the top spot, hungry to call themselves Olympic Champions. For some involved, maybe even redemption for an early bow at last year’s Women’s World Cup.
The tournament lasts for 16 days with 12 teams playing 26 matches between them. Like the recent Women’s World Cup, the awkward number of teams means that the top two from each group go through as well as the two strongest third place finishers.
Seven of the nine highest [FIFA] ranked teams were distributed between the first two pots – the only three teams missing from the top ten were England (ranked 4 in the world but aren’t an individual IOC member).
Japan (7) and North Korea (9) both missed the tournament after having failed to make it through a very tough AFC Qualifying Tournament.
Pot 1: Brazil (8 - CONMEBOL), USA (1 - CONCACAF), Germany (2 - UEFA).
Pot 2: France (3 - UEFA), Australia (5 - AFC), Sweden (6 - UEFA).
Pot 3: Canada (10 - CONCACAF), China PR (12 - AFC), New Zealand (16 - OFC).
Pot 4: Colombia (24 – CONMEBOL), South Africa (54 - COSAFA), Zimbabwe (95 - CAF).
All the group games will be played on the 3, 6 and 9 August, the matches on the 3 and 6 will be double-headers whilst every team will be required to travel to play their final group games which, like other major tournaments, will kick-off simultaneously.
Group E: Brazil, China PR, Sweden, South Africa.
Group E teams will play their first two matches at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange in Rio de Janeiro (Sweden - South Africa / Brazil - China + South Africa - China / Brazil - Sweden). South Africa will face Brazil at the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus whilst China play Sweden at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília.
Group F: Canada, Australia, Zimbabwe, Germany.
Group F teams will play their first two matches at the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo (Canada - Australia / Zimbabwe - Germany + Canada - Zimbabwe / Germany - Australia). Germany will play Canada at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília as Australia play Zimbabwe at the Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
Group G: USA, New Zealand, France, Colombia.
Group G teams will play their first two matches at the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte (USA - New Zealand / France - Colombia + USA - France / Colombia - New Zealand). In one of the most physically demanding tests in the group – and always a feisty encounter – Colombia will play USA at the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus, kicking off at 6pm local time, whilst New Zealand play France at the Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
All four quarter finals will take place on the 12 August, both semi-finals will be played on the 16 August and both medal matches are scheduled for the 19 August.
All the knock-out games will have staggered kick-off times, making it possible for every armchair fan to watch all eight games live without having to miss a second of the action.
Both the final and the first semi-final will be played at the revered Maracanã in Rio.
A tournament of firsts
Last month, the FIFA executive committee agreed that this tournament will be one of the first to trial the IFAB’s proposal for a fourth substitute to be used during any periods of extra time, something the coaches could be very grateful for especially considering some of the conditions their players could be facing.
Additionally, the tournament will be the first to Hawk-Eye for goal-line technology – but as we’ve seen in recent years, even then there will always be controversies.
Brazil, Sweden and the USA are the only teams who’ve featured in all of the previous women’s Olympic football tournaments. Brazil having made it past the semi-finals (the Bronze medal match in both 1996 and 2000 and the final in 2004 and 2008) in four of their five appearances, claiming silver medals in both Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008).
The USA seem to rule this tournament, having featured in all five previous finals, claiming gold four times and having to settle for silver in Sydney (2000) when Norway beat them with a Golden Goal. Conversely, Sweden, for all their consistency, have never medalled at a Summer Olympics.
It will be a gruelling 16 days for those who make it all the way to the final, no result is a given and there’s every chance that by the end of the tournament there’ll be a new team claiming gold.