United States Women's Olympic Soccer Team: Analyzing USA's Group G Chances
Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and the rest of the United States Women's National Team are headed to London for more gold, and now we know who stands in their way.
The USWNT was drawn in Group G against France, Colombia and North Korea. Team USA beat each of these teams in the 2011 World Cup—Colombia and North Korea in the group stages and France in the semifinals.
Team USA has won gold four of the five times women's soccer has been an Olympic sport, and that other time, in 2000, they got silver.
Silver won't be good enough in London though, as the girls look to erase the memories from last summer's World Cup final loss to Japan on penalties.
No one in Group G is just going to roll over for the FIFA No. 1 team in the world, but our girls shouldn't be sweating too much over their Olympic draw.
France, July 25
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France surprised everyone last summer in Germany with their passing flair and attractive football. Their 4-0 win over one of the tournament favorites, Canada, ensured it was the football bringing in the fans, not the photos.
However, their 4-2 loss to hosts Germany in the final group game (when they'd already qualified) showed how inexperienced some of the French players are and how easily they can be rattled.
Aside from their creativity with the ball, France's strength is their defense. The No. 6 team in the world frustrated teams all last summer, including the U.S., with their ability to soak up pressure, break up passes and keep possession when their opponents were too careless.
Team USA was wasteful in the semifinal against France last summer. Lauren Cheney gave the girls the lead inside 10 minutes, but for the rest of the half, France stifled the U.S. attack and created plenty of their own chances, and it took late goals from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan to finally book a ticket to the final.
This will no doubt be the USWNT's toughest match of the group stages, so it's a good thing they're getting it out of the way first.
While France has the ability to dazzle you with their football, they lack finishing prowess. The US can exploit that while also relying on their superior defense and goalkeeper.
If Team USA can take better advantage of their possession and chances than last summer, they can be easy winners.
Colombia, July 28
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A young Colombia side more than held their own against the No. 1 team in the world during the group stages last summer, even after Heather O'Reilly had given the U.S. an early lead (sound familiar?).
The U.S. went into halftime with a narrow 1-0 lead and very thankful to have Hope Solo in goal. Then, super-sub Megan Rapinoe entered the fray for the second half and broke it open with a cracking goal just five minutes after the restart. Minutes later, Carli Lloyd finished off the 3-0 win and booked Team USA's ticket into the quarterfinals.
Colombia is in its first-ever Olympics one year after making its first-ever World Cup appearance, and the oldest person on the squad is 28, also their FIFA world ranking.
This will not be a tough matchup for the USWNT unless they make it so. Colombia will hold strong in the early goings and create some good chances of their own, but Team USA is better all over the pitch.
However, unlike last summer, the U.S. needs to break the game open in the first half and not give Colombia any hope going into the locker room.
North Korea, July 31
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The USWNT didn't look great against North Korea last summer in their first group game. The young North Korea side were more than a match for a nervous U.S. team, and even after Lauren Cheney gave the U.S. the breakthrough they so badly needed 10 minutes after the restart, their young opponents didn't back down, coming inches away from equalizing minutes later.
In the end, the U.S. proved to be the better conditioned and more skilled team, and they finished deserved 2-0 winners.
It could've been a very different story had the North Korea team gone inside during a lightning storm just days before the match.
This could be a dangerous match for Team USA. The girls need to make sure to take care of business against France and Colombia, so they aren't relying on a big win against the No. 8 team in the world.
North Korea could be playing for more than pride in the final match, and they showed last summer they have the players to beat the American women, with the U.S. relying on the crossbar a few too many times.
Conditioning and experience go along way, though, and the USWNT have been playing together for a long time, and they know each other very well.
It might get nervy at times, but the U.S. should round out the group stages nicely.
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One look at Group G tells you France and USA will be the top two, and how they play each other in that first match will go along way in telling who will finish first.
Finishing first is of the utmost importance because that team gets to play one of the third-placed teams from Groups E or F. However, the No. 3 team in Group F could be Canada, Sweden or Japan, so that's not really a perk.
The only black mark against No. 1 USA is their inability to finish teams off or to be ruthless in their attacking. The 2-1 loss against Sweden was due to just two lapses in defense and not capitalizing on their possession. Then there's the final against Japan, which they could've won in the first half hour if they had only kept their focus in front of goal.
No amount of Olympic golds can make up for a World Cup final loss, but this team wants to cement their place at the top of women's football and continue their dominance of the Olympic games.
The draw has been kind to Team USA, but you can bet the girls won't be thanking anyone for that. Football can be unpredictable, and this team knows that more than anyone.
Last summer's loss still stings, and the old guard of Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx, who could all be making their final appearances in a major tournament, will want to go out on a high.