USA vs. France
2012 Olympics Women's Football
Kick off 25th July 2012, 5:00pm
As the 2012 London Olympics gets underway, plenty of eyes will be turning towards the football events and sizing up the favourites in each section.
USA will be one of the favourites to win Olympic gold in the women's event, and they kick off their campaign with a match against France in Group G.
The women's US football team are the current holders of the Olympic gold in this particular event. In 2008, they picked up their third gold in just four tournaments, with only the 2000 Olympics seeing anything less—and even then, they collected silver. Four years ago it was Carli Lloyd who scored the winning goal, netting six minutes into extra time to defeat Brazil 1-0.
For France, it is fair to say they have neither the history nor the expectation of the Americans: This is the first time the women's team will have partaken in the Olympics at all.
In fact, for all the success of the men's team, the women's has hardly made a splash at international level. They qualified just once for the World Cup before last year's fourth place, and only once ever getting out of the group stage of the European Championships.
The US qualified for the Olympics thanks to a thumping 4-0 win over Canada in the final of the CONCACAF Olympic qualification tournament. Earlier on, they had topped a group including Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, scoring a whopping 31 goals without reply in their three matches, which included a 14-0 win over the latter and a 13-0 victory over Guatemala.
France qualified by means of being one of the two top European sides in the 2011 Women's World Cup.
Rest of the Group
After this clash between USA and France, Colombia and North Korea will also play each other. They are the other two teams in Group G. USA faces the South Americans in the second fixture, with North Korea last. France, of course, do battle with the teams the opposite way round.
In terms of how the sides are ranked, the US are the No.1 ranked women's team under the FIFA coefficient system. France come in sixth, North Korea eighth and Colombia 28th.
Players to Watch
The US squad is vastly experienced, with no less than seven members having won over a century of caps.
None is more experienced however, than defender and captain Christie Rampone who has amassed a truly astonishing 260 caps at 37 years of age. Goalkeeper Hope Solo (118 caps), 2008 hero Lloyd (135 caps/36 goals) and perhaps most of all prolific forward Abby Wambach will be the ones who carry the hopes of a nation on their shoulders.
Wambach has 182 caps—and has plundered a mind-boggling 138 international goals.
For France, experience is also key with 38-year-old captain Sandrine Soubeyrand having won 177 caps while in defence Laura Georges and Sonia Bompastor both easily clear the century mark too. The four free-scoring attackers in the France squad have scored 109 goals between them and all are yet to hit their peak years, in contrast to the overly-old US squad.
France won't roll over easily, and their fourth place finish at the World Cup will have given them a boost after years in the international wilderness.
But the US are a side full of experience, ability and most of all, winning know-how. They are the favourites to win gold again for a reason.
For that reason, it has to be a big scoreline to get the competition going—USA 4-0 France.