Set those alarm clocks. The Olympic draw for both the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments will start at 6 a.m. ET on Tuesday morning in London. For the women’s tournament, the United States, Japan and hosts Great Britain have been seeded, therefore avoiding each other in the group stage.
The Americans are guaranteed to face either Sweden or France – two deadly opponents – in the group stage. That should note incite too much worry, however, as eight of the 12 women’s teams will advance to the knockout stage. I won’t dare call the group stage useless, but for these bigger teams it is really just a chance to get warmed up. (Let’s be completely honest: If Cameroon, South Africa or Colombia advance, it will be a surprise. So, who will be the fourth?)
Here are the pots from which teams will be drawn into three groups of four:
Pot 1: Great Britain, France and Sweden
Pot 2: Cameroon, South Africa, and Colombia
Pot 3: Japan, Korea DPR, and New Zealand
Pot 4: USA, Canada, and Brazil
The top two teams from each group will advance along with the two best third-place finishers. If I’m the Americans, France is the last team I want to see (other than Japan, which will be drawn into another group). Sweden obviously is not a push-over, but the French were able to work some serious magic in the 2011 World Cup semifinal against the U.S. and were a couple of unfortunate breaks away from making the final. Of course, Sweden also beat the U.S. in the group stage of the World Cup. And yes, I still like France to make the podium. Richard Farley over at NBC’s Pro Soccer Talk wrote last week about how Lyon’s success further supports that theory.
Out of the other pot, the U.S. will draw either Korea DPR or New Zealand. The Football Ferns gave the U.S. two stiff tests in February (one in a closed door match) and could prove resilient. They are yet to do much in a major tournament, however. U.S. players always speak about the North Koreans with a helping of caution and a hint of oblivion toward one of the world’s most mysterious teams. Korea DPR didn’t give the U.S. much trouble in last year’s World Cup, but that was a young team.
Who would you prefer the Americans play? And of course – the age-old question for tournament draws – which combination of teams would produce the infamous Group of Death?
Given the seedings, the only group I would be willing to coin with that infamous phrase would be one in which Brazil gets drawn with Japan. That would mean Japan, Brazil and either Sweden or France would have to duke it out in the group stage. That would be some group, assuming the Brazilians actually show up to play. They are yet to do that this year.