An Olympic women’s football without Germany, was it really bound to be this exciting? Surely, it was at least more relieving for two Brits who suffered from the Germans the most in football fields; Gary Lineker who invented the famous phrase about the 22 men (or women), 90 minutes and a victor Germany and Kelly Smith whose EURO 2009 odyssey was cruelly ended by six goals coming from Prinz and co. However, with or without Germans, it was “Take Pot Luck” time and fortune would still rule the world, as Carl Orff once said (or composed).
In the women’s draw, where Great Britain (aka. the Mighty England or the Royal Warriors of the Queen), USA and Japan were seeded, it was obvious non-seeded dangers such as North Korea, Brazil, Sweden and France would render things more interesting, and that was exactly what happened. Here are your three groups and a quick guess on what can happen this summer.
Group E: Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil
Great Britain of Hope Powell will certainly want to get something out of this tournament as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for promoting women’s football which most of team members invested their entire lives in. In the group draw, luck may seem to treat the Team GB with kid gloves but don’t forget it’s all about the ties in elimination rounds. Britain should finish this group at first place to play with one of the lucky losers of the other two groups. In case they lose to Brazil or another road accident happens, they may end up playing with Sweden in the quarters. Of course, the best part of being in this group is as long as you don’t finish the group third, you won’t quite probably play with USA or Japan before the semis.
Brazil has always been the most unconvincing among the big ones however they managed to have some silver jewelry at the end of their last two campaigns. Once again the question is to extent they will be dependent to Marta. It’s a good team, even a great team but it’s always the one-woman show that defines what they can do. I feel like they won’t be able to beat the Brits in Wembley, no, not on their own turf. But still, even finishing second, they can turn things around later in this tournament.
In the World Cup last year, Team New Zealand showed us they could defend (well) and even score some goals in the process. Now they have to prove they can win games too. Is it possible? Maybe. At least they can beat Cameroon and hope for the best to become one of the two lucky losers. Cameroon qualified due to another comedy of errors by the Equatorial Guinean Football Federation, presided by the Sports Minister, President’s son and El Principe. Probably they will display some classic example of physical African style of women’s football and will go home with some sweet Olympic memories.
Group F: Japan, Canada, Sweden, South Africa
This is where things start to get trickier. The world champions, the Barcelona of the women’s game, the Nadeshiko will have to play three physical sides who will be more than focused to stop the fast moving small blue shirts around them. Still I believe in Japan and I believe that God believes in Japan for changing how women’s football will be played in the future (hats off to everyone who got the Hair musical reference). For the second spot, my bet will be on Sweden whose most players had a great season in Europe, whose league is the most advanced in the world and whose team has a fantastic attack line. We may hope someday Canada may find its heyday, but it’s not today and it won’t be sometime soon. Still they can qualify as the third team. We don’t know much about South Africa except Nyandeni of Rossiyanka, however, we have a chance to prove women’s football is a work in progress there.
Group G: USA, North Korea, France, Colombia
OK, bring on the horse tranquilizers, we will need them during the games in this group. Well, this one may be the toughest football group in Olympic history. The USA, despite all the shenanigans going around WPS, has a rock-solid squad. Wambach, Morgan, Rodriguez, Leroux in the same squad, thy name is cruelty to all the defenders. As I take a look at the recent games, I’m almost sure that only the Japanese may beat this team when they play as they have to. But still, football works in mysterious ways.
So after U17, U20 and seniors’ World Cups, we have another North Korea-USA encounter. Jesus, the man upstairs gotta love these diplomatic stories about football. Indeed, the North Koreans will be super motivated against the Americans but I’m not sure this would be enough. Maybe a draw, and the draw could change things dramatically. One of the most exciting games of the group phase.
France is a great success story created by a bunch of persistent people such as Bruno Bini or Jean-Michel Aulas. Now the FFF (the owner of the rooster on the French logo) embraces the women’s game, some clubs other than Lyon, such as PSG and St. Etienne started investing, Eurosport began airing the national league in France, so there’s positive motion there. And there’s also Gaetane Thiney, one of the star candidates of this tournament. I’m sure they will qualify, even qualify as the second team. The rest will follow about their adventure.
Very early prediction (as of April 24)
Group E: Britain, Brazil
Group F: Japan, Sweden
Group G: USA, France
Lucky losers: North Korea, Canada
Potential quarters: Britain – North Korea, USA – Canada, Japan – France, Brazil – Sweden
Potential semis: Britain – USA, Japan – Sweden
Medals: Gold – USA, Silver – Japan, Bronze: Britain
Sport sociology lecturer with a PhD degree in sport and social issues, and a women’s football commentator in Turkey.