Olympic Women’s Soccer Preview


The 2021 2020 Tokyo Olympics (or whatever bizarre name the brandbots at the IOC have chosen for this year's delayed games) fast approaches, bringing with it the first top level women's international soccer competition since the 2019 Women's World Cup. I decided to take a look at five teams that stand out as contenders for Olympic Gold within the competition before it begins.

Brazil- Brazil got a new manager after the end of the 2019 World Cup in former USWNT manager and 2012 Olympic Gold Medal winning manager with the team, Pia Sundhage. Sundhage also defeated the US as Sweden's manager in the 2016 Olympics, so Brazil hopes her previous Olympic success will translate to this job. Brazil has had a relatively solid friendly record in the past year, but it remains to be seen if the aging Marta, Debinha, and Formiga, the foundation of Brazil's longtime solid midfield, can turn back the clock and put the team back in the highest echelon in these Olympics after disappointing at the 2019 World Cup with a Round of 16 loss.

USWNT- The story stays the same as it has been for a few years now. The US team overall looks dominant as of late, although with some results one could read the tea leaves as showing some doubt, with those questions finding their expression most clearly yet again in the Swedish team. The USWNT recently played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly against that squad, indicating the fits Sweden's defense gave the US in 2016 are still at least somewhat of a strategic worry for the US. The core of the greatest post-99 generation continues to age, with possibly more age in general this year than anytime before. In particular, the forward core of Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Megan

Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Christen Press are all 32 and older. Yet the results in top competitions recently and in the team's existence overall still has to make the US the favorite.

Sweden- Pia Sundhage may be gone from Sweden but it seems the character of the team from her era as manager is still present, exemplified by the 1-1 draw against the US as part of an unbeaten friendly run. The Swedes have positioned themselves as the clear second most likely gold medal candidate behind the US based on resume, having a silver medal at the last Olympics and a bronze place at the 2019 World Cup, the latter of which came under new manager Peter Gerhardsson. Questions still remain about the team's offensive capabilities, with only one match in the last four friendlies where the Swedes scored more than one goal and only one match where the Swedes scored more than two goals in the 2019 World Cup. Still, the defensive tenacity which has given them their reputation of late is reason enough to be confident they can take the mantle of Norway from the 90's as the Nordic country who can win major competitions in women's soccer.

Japan- The hosting Japanese might have the most intriguing team with the highest variability of outcomes. After a lackluster group stage in the Women's World Cup in 2019, Japan showed their ability in a competitive match against eventual finalist Netherlands which seemed to many to be one Japan dominated tactically though Netherlands won. Rumors are that much of the focus for the team even then was on being best prepared for when the team would be playing in their home country for the Olympics. If this was the strategy, so far the information available points to it having worked, as Japan has been dominant in their friendlies in the run up to the Games. Still,

not since the 2015 World Cup has Japan made a major run in a top level worldwide competition, so Japan will need to tangibly show proof positive of their potential before observers buy them as a favorite again.

Great Britain- Key to the UK's new look is a new manager, with the much maligned Phil Neville out and his replacement being legendary Norwegian footballer Hege Riise who previously had served as an assistant to the USWNT and had a fairly successful run as manager of a club in Norway's domestic league. So far, the signs for the components of this team don't look great though, with Scotland barely beating the 48th ranked Northern Ireland team in a friendly, the Welsh team disappointing so much that their manager resigned, and the English team losing multiple friendlies including to France. However, it is always possible with the considerable talent this team has that the British Olympic squad could amount to more than the sum of its parts. But they will have to prove this isn't wishful thinking.

-Ethan Jobson

Class of 2022

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