General Other

U.S. women’s soccer team to face rival Sweden in Tokyo Olympics opener

U.S. women's soccer team to face rival Sweden in Tokyo Olympics opener

Megan Rapinoe, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against France during the 2019 World Cup. The Americans’ Tokyo Olympics draw was set early Wednesday morning and includes a matchup with rival Sweden. (Getty Images)

The United States will face rival Sweden as it pushes to become the first women’s team to win the World Cup and Olympic gold back to back.

The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the FIFA soccer rankings, learned their Group G will include No. 5 Sweden, No. 9 Australia and No. 22 New Zealand during Wednesday’s draw held in New Zealand.

Host Japan, ranked No. 11, is joined by No. 8 Canada, No. 6 Great Britain and No. 37 Chile in Group E, while No. 14 China, No. 7 Brazil, No. 104 Zambia and No. 3 Netherlands round out Group E.

No. 2 Germany, the 2016 Olympic gold winner, and No. 4 France did not qualify for the Olympics.

“After waiting an extra year for this Olympics, the draw represents a real milestone in our journey and helps us focus in even more on our preparation and what we need to do to achieve our goals,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said in a news release. “We have great respect for all three of our group opponents and we know this tournament will push us to our limits both mentally and physically, as well as challenge us every game technically and tactically, so we will do everything we can in the next three months to prepare for success.”

The draw offers the U.S. a shot at redemption after a quarterfinal loss to Sweden in penalty kicks ousted the Americans from the 2016 Olympics in Rio. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo lashed out immediately after the loss, calling Sweden “a bunch of cowards” for using defensive-heavy tactics that neutralized the potent American attack. Sweden coach Pia Sundhage, a former U.S. coach, defended the tactics that led to the upset.

The stinging defeat helped spur the U.S. run to a 2019 World Cup win in France.

The U.S. women will begin their push for gold on July 21 against Sweden in Tokyo at 1:30 a.m. PST, before facing New Zealand on July 24 in Saitama at 4:30 a.m. PST and Australia on July 27 in Kashima at 1 a.m. PST.

On the men’s side, which is limited to athletes under the age of 23, Mexico joins Japan, South Africa and France in Group A.

New Zealand will face South Korea, Honduras and Romania in Group B.

Egypt, Spain, Argentina and Australia are in Group C, while Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia round out Group D.

The U.S. men’s team did not qualify for the Olympics and has not competed in the international tournament since 2008. The Americans, however, feature a promising crop of young talent that was not released by European clubs to compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament in March.

Men’s Tokyo Olympics soccer draw

Group A: Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France

Group B: New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras, Romania

Group C: Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Australia

Group D: Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia

Women’s Tokyo Olympics soccer draw

Group E: Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile

Group F: China, Brazil, Zambia, Netherlands

Group G: Sweden, United States, Australia, New Zealand

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

About the author

Erin Clark

Erin is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters her skills for the sports and health section of Report Door.