Olympic Soccer 2021: Updated Men, Women's Group Schedule and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 23, 2021

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 21:   Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is fouled by Nathalie Bjorn #4 of Swedenduring the he USA V Sweden group G football match at Tokyo Stadium during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 21, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)  CAPTION CORRECTION
Tim Clayton - Corbis/Getty Images

The United States women's national team entered the Tokyo Olympics with sky-high expectations to win a gold medal and dominate every opponent on the way to that achievement.

Those expectations had to be altered after it fell in Wednesday's opener to Sweden in one of the most shocking results in recent Olympic soccer history.

Sweden dictated the pace of the match and put up three goals on the American women, becoming the first team to score multiple goals against the USWNT in 2021.

The Americans are back in action Saturday against New Zealand, a side they should beat with ease to get back on track in Group G.

Vlatko Andonovski's team still has work to do after the game against New Zealand in order to secure passage into the final eight, but it would be a step in the right direction to put Wednesday's loss behind it.

Over in the men's bracket, Brazil has emerged as the gold-medal favorite thanks to its 4-2 victory over Germany in its opener and the struggles of other perennial powers.

Argentina, Spain, France and Germany are among the men's sides that dropped points Thursday, which could force some of those teams into desperation mode to get back on the path to reach the knockout round.

If Brazil continues to play the way it did Thursday, it could end up with many multi-goal wins during its stay in Japan.

The full schedule for the remaining group-stage games can be found on NBCOlympics.com.



USWNT Bounces Back in Major Way 

The USWNT should roll New Zealand by multiple goals Saturday.

Of course, that is what some experts said about the match with Sweden. But the Kiwis are a much easier opponent.

Sweden knocked out the USWNT in the quarterfinal round of the 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to earn a result against the Americans during the buildup to this year's competition.

With the USWNT's archnemesis out of the way for now, it can focus on winning the next two games and landing in a good position to advance to the final eight.

In the women's tournament, the top two teams in each of the three groups and the two best third-place teams move on to the quarterfinals.

The USWNT can take out their frustration on New Zealand through their loaded attack, which could feature Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press from the start. Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath are the other options to start up top.

The explosive combination of any of those players should be too much for New Zealand to handle over 90 minutes. New Zealand is viewed as the weakest team in the group. It conceded twice in the first half to Australia and did not score until second-half stoppage time.

The USWNT could look even stronger Saturday if Julie Ertz returns to the starting XI. The defensive midfielder came off the bench to play the second half on Wednesday, which is a good sign for her injury recovery.

If the USWNT turns in a dominant performance, it will set it up for an intriguing clash with Australia on Tuesday that will decide group positioning in some capacity.

In fact, the Americans can still win Group G, but that scenario only comes into play if Sweden and Australia draw and then Sweden stumbles against New Zealand in its final group game. The most likely finish is second place.


Brazil Dominates Men's Bracket

Brazil delivered a statement to the rest of the men's field Thursday.

Richarlison produced a hat-trick inside the first 30 minutes, and his team could have put five or six goals past Germany in the first half because of how many chances it created.

Brazil can confirm first place in Group D with a win over Ivory Coast on Sunday. Its group-stage finale versus Saudi Arabia could produce one of the most lopsided results of the tournament.

Brazil is driven by Richarlison, Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha and Ajax's Antony. That is one of the best and most experienced attacking trios you will find in the men's bracket.

Because of club restrictions in Germany and France, some of their top under-23 players are not participating at the tournament. The lack of top-end talent showed itself Thursday, when Brazil ran over Germany in the first half and Mexico put four goals past France in the second half.

If Germany and France are weaker than they typically are at major tournaments, the door is open for Brazil to repeat as the gold medalist or for a team like Mexico or Argentina to stand atop the podium.

Mexico looked strong versus France, and if it deals well with Japan and South Africa, it could be viewed as the top contender to Brazil.

Argentina needs to recover from a poor opening performance against Australia just to secure its passage into the final eight.

But with talent from Europe's top leagues and confidence flowing through its veins, Brazil has to be viewed as the gold-medal favorite.


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