And so it begins! Football is the second Olympic discipline to get under way, and this is the first match of the football tournament (but the fourth match of the Olympics, after three softball games played earlier), so we are very early climbers aboard the Tokyo 2020/21 bandwagon. It is, I think we can all agree, all jolly exciting.
Let’s deal with format issues first. There are 12 teams in the women’s competition, split into three groups of four. From these groups the top two go through to the quarter-finals automatically, along with the two best third-placed teams. These groups are counterintuitively known as Groups E, F and G (groups A, B, C & D are full of men’s teams and play in a different competition). Great Britain’s group is the first of those, which as well as Chile features Japan and Canada. Team GB only convenes every four years so has no world ranking, but England’s is six and in theory they have been strengthened by a minor transfusion of additional talent. Chile’s is 37, Japan’s 10, and Canada’s 8. In other words, if they are to progress this is a match Britain will want to be winning.
As well as Chile, they must also battle heat (about 30C according to forecasts) and intense humidity. But they seem confident. “I think we’ve got to go for gold,” said Caroline Weir, one of two Scots and only three non-English players in the 22-person squad. “Of course, we know there’s challenges ahead of us. It’s going to be a tough tournament. And there’s all the things that we’re going to have to contend with. But the squad is talented. We’ve got to seek gold and see what happens.”
The other groups, with Fifa rankings in brackets, are as follows:
Group F: China (15), Brazil (7), Zambia (104), Netherlands (4)
Group G: Sweden (5), USA (1), Australia (9), New Zealand (22)
Within an hour of this game kicking off China v Brazil and Sweden v USA will also have started, and after that it’s all go. Well, after Friday’s opening ceremony it’s really all go. This is just a little pre-go, really. Anyway, and most importantly, welcome! Let’s do this Olympic thing!