Women’s Olympic Draw: USWNT Handed Stern Group Stage Test
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After a year deferred, it’s time to get excited about Tokyo with the Olympic soccer draw completed on Wednesday morning via a live stream on FIFA’s YouTube channel.
After crushing all challengers at the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament with five wins, 25 goals scored and zero conceded, things get serious in Tokyo with the USWNT scheduled to open play against 5th-ranked Sweden on Wednesday, July 21.
Sweden famously knocked the USWNT out at the 2016 Olympic Games in the quarterfinals, amounting to the team’s worst-ever performance at a major international tournament and Hope Solo’s infamous labelling of the Swedes as “a bunch of cowards.”
The U.S. will be desperate to exact revenge at Tokyo Stadium, but a 1-1 friendly draw in Stockholm on April 10 (bringing an end to a 16-game winning streak) highlighted just how difficult an out the Blågult are. In 42 all-time meetings, the USA has won 23, drawn 12 and lost seven. Historically speaking, only Norway has managed more goals against the U.S. than Sweden.
“Sweden is obviously fresh in our minds coming off the match in Stockholm, but we of course already knew how talented they are, how athletic they are and how dedicated they are to their tactics,” USWNT manager Vlatko Andonovski said. “The USA and Sweden have a long history of meeting in world championships, and this will surely be another great match to open the tournament.”
With the top two teams from each of three groups advancing to the quarterfinals along with the two best third-placed teams, failure to advance from the group stage for the U.S. is unfathomable. The team’s second match, against 22nd-ranked New Zealand on Saturday, July 24, has historically been dominated by the U.S., winning 15 of 17 meetings while drawing once and losing once.
The Football Ferns haven’t played a match since the 2020 Algarve Cup because of the pandemic, and they still don’t have anything scheduled between now and the start of the Olympic Games.
“We are in a group with three other very strong teams, including the world champions, but these are the opportunities we want to prove ourselves at the highest level,” said manager Tom Sermanni, a former USWNT coach. “After not being able to play for the past year, it is brilliant to finally have our opponents for Tokyo 2020 confirmed, and we couldn’t have picked a better first opponent in our FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 co-hosts Australia.”
The Matildas will serve as the USWNT’s final group-stage opponent, and they’ll provide another stern test with a world ranking of ninth, as well as the must-watch play of captain Sam Kerr (the all-time leading scorer in both the NWSL and W-League and current top scorer in the FA WSL with Chelsea).
Australia’s return to action following the pandemic has been anything but smooth with the side losing 5-2 to Germany and 5-0 to the Netherlands in April, but they’re managed by former USWNT assistant Tony Gustavsson (the guy with the man-bun).
USWNT Olympic Schedule And Kick-Off Times
Wednesday, July 21: USA vs. Sweden (Tokyo Stadium) | 4:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 24: USA vs. New Zealand (Saitama Stadium) | 7:30 a.m. ET
Tuesday, July 27: USA vs. Australia (Ibaraki Kashima Stadium) | 4 a.m. ET
Full Women’s Olympic Soccer Draw Tokyo 2021
E1: Japan (5th appearance)
E2: Canada (4th appearance)
E3: Great Britain (2nd appearance)
E4: Chile (1st appearance)
F1: China PR (6th appearance)
F2: Brazil (7th appearance)
F3: Zambia (1st appearance)
F4: The Netherlands (1st appearance)
F1: Sweden (7th appearance)
F2: USA (7th appearance)
F3: Australia (4th appearance)
F4: New Zealand (4th appearance)