2012 Women's Olympic Soccer Draw: Analyzing All 3 Groups

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2012

2012 Women's Olympic Soccer Draw: Analyzing All 3 Groups

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    Everything is set for the women's football tournament in the 2012 Olympics. The draw was announced at Wembley on Tuesday. The 12 teams were distributed into three groups—E, F and G— of four. The top seeds are Great Britain, Japan and the United States.

    For the nations to advance to the big stage at London, each confederation celebrated Olympic qualifier tournaments; additionally, the 2011 Women's World Cup conceded two spots for the best European teams.

    Without further ado, let's take a look at every group and see which teams have a better chance of grabbing a medal.

Group E: The Hosts

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    Great Britain won’t have it easy. They will face New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil.

    The squad must take advantage of the first match, against the Football Ferns, as it happens to be the easiest.

    As agreed, Great Britain will showcase players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will strengthen the team in all the lines.

    Arsenal Ladies’ Jennifer Beattie (back) and Kim Little (midfielder), Everton’s Gwennan Harries (striker) and Glasgow City’s Rachel Corsie (center-back) could be great additions to the squad.

    New Zealand made it to the Olympics after defeating Papua New Guinea with an aggregated score of 5-0. The team’s performance at the last World Cup was less than impressive, showing their lack of experience and weak defense. They didn't advance to the knockout stage.

    Some players from team GB are already familiarized with the New Zealanders as they shared a group at the World Cup.

    Cameroon surprised Nigeria in the final round of the qualifier to make it to their first Olympic tournament.

    The African team will put their rivals in distress when it comes to strength and speed, two of their best qualities. Cameroon also has a well-organized midfield, commanded by Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene, and an explosive offensive led by Francine Zouga Edoa.

    The Indomitable Lionesses have had a stellar preparation for the Olympics, which started at the 2010 African Games, where they grabbed the gold medal.

    Brazil will always be a threat. For starters, they have Marta, a footballer who has been named FIFA Player of the Year five times. Despite their success at the South American Championship and the World Cup, London 2012 won’t be an easy feat.

    At last year’s World Cup, the Verde-Amarela led their group but failed to qualify after losing in a penalty shootout against the United States.

    The squad’s technical attributes make them a strong competitor, with individual and collective efforts that unbalance any rival. Joga bonito is an essential part of the strategy as well as quick and assertive ball touch.

    Brazil may have a strong and determined offense, but the defense is also a key factor of their game.

    Prediction

    Great Britain and Brazil will advance to the knockout round without serious complication. The South Americans will lead the group due to experience and level of play.

    Schedule

    Date Team 1 vs Team 2 Stadium
    25 July 2012 Great Britain   New Zealand Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    25 July 2012 Cameroon   Brazil Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    28 July 2012 New Zealand   Brazil Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    28 July 2012 Great Britain   Cameroon Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    31 July 2012 New Zealand   Cameroon Ricoh Arena, Coventry
    31 July 2012 Great Britain   Brazil Wembley Stadium, London

Group F: The Rising Sun

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    Japan is one of the most serious contenders to take the gold medal home. Their performance at last year’s World Cup put them on the radar.

    Homare Sawa was appointed best player (Golden Ball) and top scorer (Golden Boot), above the unstoppable USA footballers. Sawa also received the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or, leaving Brazil’s Marta aside for the first time in the past five years.

    Japan has it all: discipline, technique, speed, organization and strength. They have become the best country of their confederation, without a question, but different from other teams, they have also come out from their comfort zone to face and defeat squads like Germany and USA, that have ruled women’s football for over a decade.

    Canada had a strong performance in the CONCACAF qualifier, having lost one match, the final against USA.

    The team has gotten better as time has passed. The first time they qualified for the Olympics was in 2008, and they finished eighth; they grabbed the Pan American Games gold medal in 2011 and have won the CONCACAF World Qualifier twice, in 1998 and 2010.

    Captain Christine Sinclair will have the responsibility to lead the team not only emotionally but also technically; she’s the top scorer with 131 goals so far, playing for Western New York Flash at 28 years old.

    Sweden made quite a run at last year’s World Cup, which guaranteed them a spot at the Olympic tournament.

    Caroline Seger is a first-class midfielder. At age 26 she was named to the World Cup All-Star Team thanks to her precise passes and ball control. Seger makes a great couple with Lotta Schelin, who plays for Lyon and scored the only goal in the bronze medal victory over France.

    The Blue-Yellow's success lies in their physical attributes. The Swedish footballers have the height and strength to be fast but are technical enough to unbalance and break other teams’ lines.

    South Africa will be making its debut at the Olympics. Like Cameroon, the Banyana Banyana surprised in the qualifier. First against Zambia, they won 5-1, then in front of Tunisia in a penalty shootout and finally in the final match against Ethiopia with a 4-1 aggregated score.

    As part of its preparation, the squad played the Cyprus Cup and had a training camp in Brazil, but the limitations are obvious, especially in terms of organization. South Africa needs a miracle to finish as one of the two best third-ranked teams in the competition.

    Attacking midfielder Phumi Nyandeni will be a key player, especially from the sidelines; while Janine van Wyk must keep the defense focused and strong.

    Prediction

    Japan and Sweden are the obvious picks from this group, but Canada can aspire to be one of the top third-ranked teams and thus advance to the knockout stage.

    Schedule

    Date Team 1 vs Team 2 Stadium
    25 July 2012 Japan   Canada Ricoh Arena, Coventry
    25 July 2012 Sweden   South Africa Ricoh Arena, Coventry
    28 July 2012 Japan   Sweden Ricoh Arena, Coventry
    28 July 2012 Canada   South Africa Ricoh Arena, Coventry
    31 July 2012 Japan   South Africa Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    31 July 2012 Canada   Sweden St James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne

Group G: The Stars and Stripes

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    United States will try to win its third gold medal in a row and, if things go as expected, take vengeance over Japan.

    The Stars and Stripes secured their Olympic spot at the CONCACAF qualifier with impressive stats: They won their five matches, had 31 goals for and none against; their biggest win was in front of Dominican Republic, 14-0.

    At the World Cup they displayed an amazing offense and an enviable structure. All of their lines are well-organized, and there’s not one player who doesn't know what to do. To surpass Hope Solo’s goal, the rivals must have a fine ball touch.

    Beware of Abby Wambach, a 31-year-old who has scored 134 goals in 178 international matches and has been named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year five times and Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year once.

    France has proven to be on the up. They won their first international title at the Cyprus Women’s Cup held last March.

    Their defense is strong as an ox, with Laura Georges (center-back) and Sonia Bompastor (left-back) making it tough for rivals to become a serious threat.

    The Blues qualified through the World Cup, where they showed some quality football, especially against England, whom they defeated in the penalty shootout. They went on to finish fourth, their best performance in that competition.

    Their toughest rival in this group will be the United States, a squad they last faced at the World Cup semi-finals.

    Colombia may not be the strongest team of the competition, but they have certainly shown a lot of improvement in the last couple of years.

    At the CONMEBOL qualifier, they lost two matches, both against Brazil, but won by a mile when they faced Uruguay, 8-0 and Venezuela, 5-0.

    Las Cafeteras also had a brilliant performance at the 2011 Pan American Games, where they played against the host, Mexico, and took them to overtime, where they lost 1-0.

    The South Americans have a real shot of making it to the knockout stage if they don’t lose focus on the defense.

    North Korea is by all means a tough competitor, and they owe it to discipline more than to their technique. They qualified for the Olympics for the first time four years ago in Beijing, finishing third.

    The Chollima won the Asian Games in 2002 and 2006 and the Women's Asian Cup in 2001, 2003 and 2008.

    Ra Un-Sim and Kim Jo-Ran are the main attacking force of this young squad, whose age average is 19 years. Veteran Song Jong-Sun will try to keep the defense together and motivate her teammates.

    Predictions

    United States and France shouldn't have a problem to advance, but it will be the match against each other that could change their position in the group.

    Schedule

    Date Team 1 vs Team 2 Stadium
    25 July 2012 United States   France Hampden Park, Glasgow
    25 July 2012 Colombia   North Korea Hampden Park, Glasgow
    28 July 2012 United States   Colombia Hampden Park, Glasgow
    28 July 2012 France   North Korea Hampden Park, Glasgow
    31 July 2012 United States   North Korea MOld Trafford, Manchester
    31 July 2012 France   Colombia St James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne

Medals For...

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    Eight teams will advance to the knockout stage: the first two of each group, plus the two best third-ranked.

    Quarterfinals 

    Brazil (E1) vs Colombia (G3): Brazil wins 3-0

    United States (G1) vs Canada (F3): USA wins 4-0

    Japan (F1) vs France (G2): Japan wins 2-1

    Great Britain (E2) vs Sweden (F2): Sweden wins 1-0

    If this happens, the semifinals will look like this:

    Brazil vs United States: USA wins 1-0

    Japan vs Sweden: Japan wins 2-0

    The bronze medal match will be Brazil vs Sweden: Brazil wins 2-1.

    And the gold medal match: Japan vs United States: Japan wins in penalty shootout.