The Olympic soccer tournament is never an easy thing to win if you’re coming off a World Cup title as well. The USWNT have tried that before and it didn’t work out for them (see: 2016). That’s what makes the Olympic women’s soccer tournament such an intriguing one to watch. 12 teams, two weeks and history in the making for those who last the distance.
The USWNT are once again the clear favourites in this tournament especially considering that European powerhouses Germany (the current Gold medal holders) and France will not be competing this time around. Teams like the USWNT’s constant nemesis Sweden, Japan and the Netherlands will be comepting, as well as the amalgamation that is Team Great Britain.
Predicting who will finish on top isn’t easy so I asked André Carlisle, Casey Caprio, Charles Olney and Sophie Lawson to pitch in and discuss all the possibilities that this tournament could bring.
KM: Name your three medalists please and why? I have, in no particular order, USA, Sweden and Japan. Might see the Netherlands up there if they pull off an upset earlier on.
CO: US, Great Britain and Sweden. The US is the best team, Team GB has the next best squad and Sweden is also right up there in terms of quality. They also are much better set up than any of the other major contenders to make a run for the podium.
SL: Sweden, Japan and the US. (Brazil are going to finish fourth again).
AC: I agree with Sophie. Sweden will get Gold, Silver will go to the USWNT and Japan will get Bronze. I could be talked into a Silver medal for Japan but I’m backing The Real Vlatko™ to get it done enough for that medal.
CC: USA, Team GB and the Netherlands.
KM: That was pretty straight forward then. Who do you see moving on to the knock-out stages from each group?
SL: I’ll be bold and give you the quarter-final lineups as a I see them: Japan vs Australia, Netherland vs Sweden, USA vs China and GB vs Brazil. (All dependent on any Canada/GB/China weirdness of course).
CO: My picks for reaching the knock-out stages are Team GB, Japan and Canada from Group E, the Netherlands, Brazil and China from Group F, and USA, Sweden from Group G. Australia will finish third in Group G but will miss out due to the other three third place finishers doing better than them.
AC: Japan, Canada and Team GB from Group E, China, Brazil and the Netherlands from Group F, and Sweden and the US from Group G.
CC: Group E will have Team GB, Japan and Canada, Group F will have the Netherlands, Brazil and China, and Group G will have USA and Sweden.
KM: Is there anyone who has a dark horse pick? Most teams can’t be necessarily considered dark horses as I see them as known quantities with expected finishes but maybe Canada?
SL: Due to teams coming in with no form to speak of/new coaches/heavily changed squads, I don’t really have a dark horse pick. Just for the sake of it, I’ll pick Zambia to do a madness and reach the KOs.
CO: I’m not sure I have a dark horse either. All the teams seem pretty close to the general expectation but China is the one team that I could absolutely see failing to win a game. Then again, I can see them making the semi-finals too.
AC: Canada! This is truly the definition of a heart-over-head pick but they have a sneakily super talented squad. I just worry about coaching and playing the players who can create goals. I feel like they can beat Team GB though.
CC: Canada’s my pick as well.
KM: Now for a tougher question, which team’s gonna pull a Euro 2020 France and flame out badly?
CC: I think Brazil could pull a France.
AC: Team GB. They haven’t played anything other than intra-squad scrimmages and have an internationally inexperienced manager who also won’t be coaching these players maybe ever again.
SL: Whilst I don’t disagree with Andre’s reasoning, put some respect on Hege Riise’s name. Canada, GB, China and Australia all look like they could have a miserable tournament for overlapping reasons. I can see Canada notching up two draws and a loss in the group and going home early. I can also see something weird happening like when they beat Brazil in 2016 at the quarter final stage and end up with another Bronze medal.
AC: I was harsh but I had to Make The Case.
CO: Dare I say it? The USWNT. They’re the best team, of course, but it’s still really hard to win three knock outs in a row. Things have looked a tiny bit shaky in the past few months and they brought a lot of players with age and injury concerns.
SL: I think the only way the USWNT really flame out is if they lose to Sweden in the group and end up facing a Dutch team who pull off a madness. If that did happen, we would all need to go on diets because nothing so delicious could be low fat.
CO: No way. The USWNT loses to Canada in the quarter finals. You heard it here first.
KM: Player of the tournament then everyone. I’m going with Vivianne Miedema because I feel like it’s time for everyone to put some respect on her name and what better way to do so than to light it up at the Olympics.
AC: Welcome to the Summer of Rolfö.
CC: I think Lieke Martens is going to have a good tournament but I could see Christen Press going off too.
SL: I’m with Casey here. Press is well overdue the opportunity to be the USWNT’s MVP at a major tournament. I could also see Mana Iwabuchi being right up there as long as Japan don’t implode.
CC: If Press gets the starting spot like she deserves, she’ll probably be the US’ top scorer or at least be their best forward.
CO: Press feels like the obvious choice. The most in-form attacker for the best team. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the tournament where the world really gets to see what Lauren Hemp is capable of.
KM: And finally, because we like a good kit, who has the best kit at the Olympics?
CC: New Zealand’s all black of Japan’s blue kits
AC: Japan definitely wins best kit.
KM: I have Japan in second with strangely enough, the US in first. I don’t know, something about the new one looks great in motion.