Defending Olympic and world champions USA will take on New Zealand, France and Colombia in their women's soccer group at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
Meanwhile, hosts Brazil will face China, Sweden and South Africa, per FIFA Women's World Cup:
Here are the groups for the Women's Olympic Football Tournament #Rio2016 https://t.co/JuQPSrQ8Cc2016-4-14 13:52:40
Canada, Australia, Zimbabwe and Germany comprise the remaining group.
The women will be the first to kick off the football at the 2016 Olympics, and it will be Sweden who do so against South Africa on August 3 in Rio.
Per FIFA's official website—where the knockout stage bracket can also be found—the top two teams in each group plus the two best third-place finishers will reach the quarter-finals. Here is the schedule for the first round of the competition:
|2016 Rio Olympics: Women's Football Schedule|
|Wednesday, Aug. 3||5 p.m./12 p.m.||Group E||Sweden vs. South Africa|
|Wednesday, Aug. 3||8 p.m./3 p.m.||Group E||Brazil vs. China PR|
|Wednesday, Aug. 3||7 p.m./2 p.m.||Group F||Canada vs. Australia|
|Wednesday, Aug. 3||10 p.m./5 p.m.||Group F||Zimbabwe vs. Germany|
|Wednesday, Aug. 3||11 p.m./6 p.m.||Group G||USA vs. New Zealand|
|Wednesday, Aug. 3||2 a.m./9 p.m.||Group G||France vs. Colombia|
Unlike in the men's event, there are no age restrictions on players, so supporters can expect to see many of the top stars of the women's game competing.
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl sought to find out why there are four fewer women's teams than in the men's tournament:
Grant Wahl @GrantWahl
Here's the answer I got from someone who'd know on why Olympic soccer has 16 men's teams but only 12 women's teams. https://t.co/PDhItn6RGX2016-4-14 13:53:04
After lifting the 2015 World Cup and winning gold in four of the five Olympics where women's football has featured—and silver in the other—the USWNT will undoubtedly be the team to beat.
The presence of France and Colombia in Group G could give the Americans something to think about, as they both reached the knockout stages of last year's World Cup, but even so, the USA should top the group—and will almost certainly go through even if not, with potentially three teams progressing.
ESPN's Paul Carr explained the benefits of qualifying top of Group G:
Paul Carr @PCarrESPN
By winning Group G, #USWNT would get 3rd-place team in quarters, then presumably BRA/SWE in semis. Likely couldn't play GER/FRA until final.2016-4-14 14:06:11
Paul Carr @PCarrESPN
So #USWNT and France will definitely want to top the group. Winner gets a 3rd-place team; runner-up likely gets Germany.2016-4-14 14:16:07
With the likes of Marta and Cristiane, hosts Brazil will also be a force to be reckoned with, as well as Germany, after the latter reached the semifinals of the World Cup.