The groups for the women's Olympic football tournament have been drawn in Zurich, Switzerland. Find out all the details below...
The draw has been made for the women's Olympic Football Tournament in Zurich, Switzerland with some intriguing match-ups on the cards.
Hosts Japan have been drawn in a fascinating Group E, alongside Canada - bronze medallists at the last two Olympic Games - Great Britain and debutants Chile.
Making their sixth appearance of the Games, People's Republic of China take on Brazil, Olympic debutants Zambia and the Netherlands in Group F.
In Group G, favourites the USA take on the team that beat them at Rio 2016, Sweden. Neighbours Australia and New Zealand make up the rest of the group.
Women's Olympic Football Tournament
Group E: Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile
Group F: China PR, Brazil, Zambia, Netherlands
Group G: Sweden, USA, Australia, New Zealand
When does the tournament begin?
The women’s Olympic football tournament (OFT) of the Tokyo 2020 Games will run from 21 July to 6 August 2021 across seven venues in six Japanese cities.
The top stars of the women’s game will light up the stages of the competition, including, in all likelihood, American World Cup holders Megan Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn, as well as head-turners like Brazil’s Debinha and Marta and Dutch sensation Vivianne Miedema. Join Tokyo2020 for a look back – and ahead – at the women’s OFT.
With the Olympic Games in 2021 just around the corner, Tokyo 2020 takes a look back at some of the best goals scored at the women's Olympic football tournaments.
Teams for 2021
A field of 12 teams – who all reached the Games via regional qualifying tournaments – arrive in Japan from five continents. With reigning champions Germany failing to make the mark, Europe will be represented by Great Britain, 2019 World Cup runners-up the Netherlands and Sweden – who knocked out the mighty United States in a penalty shootout at the quarterfinal stage of the Rio 2016 Games.
Team USA, however, are back again and hunting a fifth gold in Olympic women’s football, having claimed the most recent World Cup (in the summer of 2019) in France. Joining them from North America are Canada, who’ve made a habit of scooping bronze in the last two editions (2012 and 2016).
Ever-present since 1996, Brazil fly the flag yet again for South America alongside newcomers Chile, who will be making their debut in the tournament. Hosts Japan are the seeded team in Group E, and will want to improve on their best-ever finish of second (silver) in 2012 – a year after they won their first and only Women’s World Cup. The People’s Republic of China, who reached the party late by edging the Republic of Korea, round out Asia’s competitors.
2017 Getty Images
The South Seas pair of Australia (who qualify from the Asian Zone) and New Zealand will also take part while Zambia make their Olympic debut after eliminating Cameroon in the African qualifiers.
Players to watch
A big problem for Team USA coach Vlatko Andonovski – for whom Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) will be his first major tournament in charge – will be who to leave out. Blessed with loads of talent, the Macedonian-American coach – who took over from Jill Ellis in October of 2019 – has at his disposal world star Rapinoe, 300-times capped veteran and former FIFA Player of the Year Carli Lloyd, young midfield dynamo Rose Lavelle and keen striker Alex Morgan to name just a few.
It’s a list that goes on and on, so trimming it down to the required 18 (five fewer than the squad limit for the FIFA World Cup) should have the new Team USA coach up at night.
Canada, USA’s neighbours to the north, will rely again on 37-year-old striker Christine Sinclair. She’s the top-scorer in the history of international football (men’s or women’s) and is closing in on 200 goals for her country. “When it matters, she turns up,” Canada coach Bev Priestman told Tokyo2020 about the legendary Sinclair. “She delivers – she always has for Canada.”
2020 Getty Images
On the other end of the age spectrum is Jordyn Huitema, just 19, of club side PSG in France. She’s among the world’s top young talents and a Canadian to keep an eye on.
Out of Europe, Dutch star Miedema of Arsenal and Great Britain’s striker Ellen White are keen to make a mark and see their countries finish among the medals for a first time. The youthful Swedes – silver medal winners last time out in Rio – will rely on veterans Caroline Seger and Nilla Fischer (both 36) to steady both the nerves and the ship.
Sam Kerr of Australia (and club side Chelsea) is always among the deepest bags of tricks in any international competition. Elsewhere, Chile, South American debutants, will likely need to lean hard on their outstanding goalkeeper Christiane Endler.
2016 Getty Images
People's Republic of China – who won silver at the first women’s OFT in 1996 – rely on a squad of all domestic-based players led by WANG Shuang, who scored the crucial goal that took the Steel Roses to this summer’s Games.
Japan have young ace KOBAYASHI Rikako to lean on, while Zambia and New Zealand, devoid of many big-name stars, will hope for breakout performances from Barbra Banda and Hannah Wilkinson respectively.
History of the women's Olympic football tournament
There’s no talking about the history of the women’s Olympic football tournament without devoting much of the conversation to the United States. Of the six gold medals on offer since the tournament made its Olympic debut in 1996 (with the US team as hosts – in Atlanta), the Americans have scooped four.
Led by former stars and trailblazers Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers and all-time football (men’s or women’s) caps leader Kristine Lilly (354), the American women kept a stranglehold on proceedings from 1996 to 2012, winning all the Olympic golds save for a silver in Sydney in 2000 when they were pipped to the crown by their great rivals of the time, Norway.
2004 Getty Images
This time out, in Japan, the United States will have some disappointment from Rio 2016 to use as motivation. For only the second time in the tournament’s history, Team USA arrive at an Olympic Games not as defending champions. A shock quarterfinal loss to Sweden saw them head home early from the Games in Brazil – a result they’re eager to set right this around.
“That feeling never goes away and we all still have that bitterness in our mouths,” USA creator Lindsey Horan told Tokyo2020 recently. “We want revenge – but a revenge for ourselves.”
Since the tournament’s inception 25 years ago, only three teams have won gold and they’ve all come from North America or Europe (the USA, Germany and Norway). Challenging that hegemony, the People’s Republic of China (1996) and Japan (2012) have managed to both win silver.
2019 Getty Images
Brazil – led by the evergreen Marta who remains top scorer in the history of the tournament – managed a pair of silvers as well in 2004 and 2008.
Tokyo 2020 tournament format
Since 1996, the women’s Olympic football tournament has been played as a senior-level tournament – putting it on par in prestige with the World Cup (also quadrennial). This format distinguishes the women’s OFT from the men’s, which has been played (since 1992) at youth level, with each team allowed three overage players in the final squad.
From the original field of 12, the top two teams (and the two best third-place finishers) will move on to the knockout stage.
The games will be played among the venue cities of Kashima, Saitama, Sapporo, Sendai, and Yokohama. The last-four rounds will take place at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium and Saitama Stadium, while the final will be played at the Olympic Stadium.