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​ 2016 Women’s Olympic preview

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Although the Olympic games isn’t held in the same esteem as the World Cup it is still a very important date in the women’s football cycle. Twelve sides
have qualified for the games in Rio and you could realistically make a case that ten of them have a chance of making the podium. The teams are
split into 3 groups of 4 with the top two sides from each group progressing. The two sides that finish in 3rd place with the best records will
also make the knockout round.
After a poor showing at the last World Cup where they were eliminated in the second round by Australia, there will be huge pressure on hosts Brazil
to obtain some kind of medal at the games. A lot of the pressure will be on the shoulders of 5 times world player of the year Marta who is still
considered one of the very best in the world. Joining Brazil in group E are China; who have made steady progress in the last 12 months recording
impressive wins over the USA and England amongst others, Sweden; who came through a 4 side tournament to decide the last European qualifier and
South Africa who lost all 3 matches at their Olympic debut at London 2012. However hopes are high that under the guidance of Dutch coach Vera Pauw,
South Africa will be much better prepared and will be competitive in all 3 matches and may spring a surprise or two.
Group F is comprised of Germany, Canada, Australia, and Zimbabwe. The first three hold genuine hopes of reaching the podium while for debutants Zimbabwe
it will be about trying to keep the score down. Canada won a historic bronze medal at London 2012 but underachieved at the 2015 World Cup. The
side is in somewhat of a transformation phase and it would be expecting a little too much to see this young side repeat the success of London.
Australia are becoming a real force in the game now having recently broken into the top 5 in the FIFA Rankings. Such is the level of their success
that anything less than a semi final will probably be seen as a failure. Germany have a surprisingly poor record at the Olympics having never won
the gold medal and having only 2 bronze ones to their name. This will be coach Silva Neid’s last tournament with the team so they will be going
all out to give the legendary coach a fantastic send off. Zimbabwe have never qualified for a major tournament outside of Africa and it could be
a very steep learning curve for them against 3 of the top 10 nations in the world. It’s hard to see them winning a point but the fact that they
qualified shows that the game in Africa is becoming stronger and teams are becoming more competitive.
The USA have dominated this event since it was introduced into the games in 1996 and in that time have won gold on all but one occasion (when they
finished 2nd to Norway at Sydney 2000) And having won the World cup less than a year ago are once again looking like the team to beat. The holders
are placed in group G, alongside New Zealand, Colombia, and perennial under achievers France. France have always had the talent to compete with
the very best in the world but always seem to fall short when it matters, but as the country prepares to host the World Cup in 2019 the side will
be under pressure to finally reach its potential. New Zealand, like Australia, have made steady progress and are now regulars at major tournaments.
Colombia performed well at the last World Cup chalking up an impressive win over France along the way. The US are strong favourites to win the
group but the other 3 sides will strongly fancy their chances of progressing to the knock out phase.