The quadrennial sporting extravaganza that is the Olympic Games is nearly upon us, and as a result later this week the eyes of the world turn to Rio. In preparation for the late nights caused by patriotic attention to sports neglected for all bar 16 days every 4 years, The Sportress will look at a few sports of interest and at some Australian medal chances.
Today we look at another sport that might tick both boxes. As it has in all bar two Games’, Soccer takes its place on the Olympic programme with 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams chasing gold in Rio.
In an effort to differentiate the competition from the Word Cup, the Olympic men’s tournament is contested by teams consisting of players aged 23 and under. Each team is allowed 3 players over 23 years of age. The women’s tournament has no age restrictions in place.
Group Matches will be spread across 6 cities with Rio sharing hosting duties with Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Salvador and Manaus. Both finals will played at Rio’s world famous Maracana Stadium, with a capacity of 78,639 it is one of the world’s largest Soccer stadiums. But even a full house for the finals will fall a long way short of the venues record crowd. An unbelievable 199,854 crammed in to watch Brazil take on Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup Final.
Kick off will take place on August 4th at 2am Australian Eastern Time when Sweden and South Africa contest the first match of the women’s tournament. The men kick off the following day when Iraq and Denmark face off. The quest for gold will conclude with the medal matches on the 20th and 21st of August.
The men’s medals will be contested by 4 groups of 4 teams, the top two from each group qualify for the quarter finals.
Men’s Tournament Groups
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|South Africa||Columbia||South Korea||Algeria|
The women’s competition will be fought out between 3 groups of 4 teams, the top two from each group qualify for the quarter finals along with the two best 3rd place finishers.
Women’s Tournament Groups
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
When I travelled through Brazil for the World Cup in 2014, much of the talk amongst Brazillian fans was that the tournament was their chance at redemption after their shock loss the last time they were host in 1950. The spectre of that loss was still very present as they willed their nation to victory in the World’s largest sporting event. Despite this being a glorified underage tournament, the Canarinho’s devastating 7-1 loss in the Semi Finals in 2014 would no doubt have increased the pressure on Neymar and his team as they chase the nation’s first Olympic football gold medal.
Despite the pressure and an apparently uneven squad, Brazil are favourites with punters. Neighbours Argentina are also highly fancied along with Germany. Defending champions Mexico, unloved by pundits, are also not without their chances.
In the women’s draw, and only 12 months removed from their World Cup victory, the US are overwhelming favourites to claim their fifth Olympic gold from six attempts. Australia’s Matildas, 2010 Asian Cup Champions and currently ranked number 5 in the world on the back of an unbeaten qualifying campaign, are one of the chasing pack with realistic medal aspirations.
If their medal aspirations are to be realised they will need the best from the following players:
Lisa De Vanna – A goal scoring “super sub”, described once by former Socceroo Craig Foster to run on jet-fuel, burning up twice as fast but with incredible impact. Her canny finishing abilities were on display when she became the first Australian to be nominated for the Puskas Award, Fifa’s award for goal of the year. Take a look at the unbelievable strike here:
Kyah Simon – A Matilda since the age of 16 Simon has made a habit of scoring big goals when Australia needed them most. In both 2011 and 2015 she found the net to ensure Australia’s progression to the quarter finals of the World Cup but most importantly she stuck the winning penalty in Australia’s 2010 Asian Cup Final triumph.
Emily van Egmond – Daughter of Newcastle Jets Championship Winning coach Gary, she is a 22 year old midfielder currently plying her trade for four time European Champion FFC Frankfurt. Van Egmond epitomises the Matildas rise, at 22 she is at the peak of her powers, confident without being cocky, not just content mixing it with best but wanting to beat them.
The 13 hour time difference will make following the Soccer, or most other sports, a little hard however the business end matches will be played in the morning Australian time.
The Matilda’s group games will take place at the following times:
v Canada, August 4, 4am
v Germany, August 7, 7am
v Zimbabwe, August 10, 5am
Quarter Finals will be played at 2am, 5am, 8am and 11am on August 13 for the Women and August 14 for the men.
Semi Finals will be played at 2am and 5am on August 17 for the Women and August 18 for the men.
The Bronze medal playoff’s will take place at 2am on the 20th and 21st.
The Gold Medals will be decided at 5am on August 20th and 21st.