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Women’s International Soccer, Olympic Edition

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Group play, consisting of three groups of four teams, ended two days ago. The tournament gets interesting now, with all four quarter final matches tomorrow (Friday).  Eight of the twelve sides involved in the tournament qualified for the quarter finals, meaning North Korea, Columbia Colombia (duh), South Africa, and Cameroon worked hard at not doing all that well in comparison.

The quarterfinal brackets (full bracket can be found here) follow (times are BST; subtract five for EDT, eight for PDT). FIFA rankings as of June 1 in parentheses. As Great Britain doesn’t have a FIFA recognised team, I’m using the England ranking with apologies to the two non English players on the side: Ifeoma Dieke and Kim Little, both Scots.

Left Bracket:
19:30: (9) Great Britain v (7) Canada
14:30: (1) United States v (23) New Zealand

Right Bracket:
12:00: (4) Sweden v (6) France
17:00: (5) Brazil v (3) Japan

While this appalls the comedy club writing at conservapedia, the US is placed on the left bracket.  (Seriously, there’s so much potential material in their entry on the 2012 Olympics such that posting about it is impossible due to being overcome with laughter every time I try.)

I’ve only been able to watch parts of a few group matches.  The cable package we have where I live in Oregon can only be called “cable” because, well, that’s how we get TV.  I do have a VPN connection to my home institution back in England, allowing me access to all the BBC feeds, but time zones and other responsibilities haven’t helped.  First impressions on the brackets is that the US got lucky, largely due to Great Britain’s surprising victory over Brazil in front of around 70,000 in Wembley.  Brazil wins, Brazil’s in the USA’s bracket.  The USA v Brazil match in the 2011 World Cup was a classic, and an experience best avoided as long as possible.

The Great Britain v Canada match is interesting.  GB don’t have much of a track record, obviously, while Canada’s is recently spotty.  The Canadians finished 16th out of 16 in 2011.  Canada drew 2-2 against Sweden in the group, while GB drew 0-0 in their only friendly immediately prior to the Olympics.  On paper, Canada should probably win, but I’ll go for Team GB because they’ll be playing in front of a sold out City of Coventry Stadium.  Among the 32,000 there should be a few Canadian fans . . .

Winner: Great Britain

USA v New Zealand.  If this were cricket, rugby union, or nuclear non-proliferation, New Zealand.  However, their women’s soccer side has one single point in the history of the world cup (in 2011), and lost 4-0 to the USA in the 2008 Olympics.  An NZ victory would be more of an upset than GB beating Brazil.  They have two things going for them, however.  Crowd support at St. James’ Park in Newcastle should favor New Zealand, and they’ve been stingy on defence, conceding only one goal in each of their three group matches (including against Brazil).

Winner: USA

The right side of the bracket is a lot tougher, both in terms of competition and predictions.  Sweden v France is a rematch of the third-place playoff in the 2011 World Cup, won by Sweden 2-1.  This match will be a reverse of last year.  In the 20 matches that the French have played since that match, they’ve won 19 and only lost one (the 2-4 against the USA last Friday).  This streak features uneven competition (2013 European Championship qualification and friendlies), but to go 19-0 itself is an impressive achievement, and it includes victories over Japan, Canada, England, and North Korea, all top-ten sides.  I might be mistaken, but Sweden’s last victory of note was defeating the USA in the final group stage match in the 2011 World Cup (a favor the US returned 4-0 in March at the Algarve Cup), and as hosts of Euro 2013 haven’t had to go through qualification.

Winner: France

Brazil v Japan.  Both teams have been uneven in this tournament. Japan had two 0-0 draws (Sweden and South Africa) and only beat Canada 2-1. Brazil of course lost to Great Britain, beat New Zealand 1-0, and buried Cameroon. Although Japan is the current holder of the World Cup, I’ve got to go with Brazil. Japan’s past year has been more erratic, and in Marta and Cristiane, Brazil have two of the best players on the planet, and they’re both still at their peak (ages 26 and 27 respectively).

Winner: Brazil

Semi-Finals:  USA over Great Britain.  Brazil over France (just).

Final: USA over Brazil.  That said, I predicted the USA to march through the knock-out rounds at the 2011 World Cup, where they barely got past Brazil on penalties, struggled against France in the semi final, and ultimately lost to Japan on penalties. Hence, take the above with een korreltje zout.

I’d write about the 2012 men’s tournament, but this is predominantly a U-23 competition, thus making it not as interesting.  It is refreshing to see Ryan Giggs finally playing in an international tournament however, much as I loathe Man Utd.

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