New Zealand

Canadian women could face two top-five teams to start at Olympic soccer tournament

As in the 2016 Games in Rio, eighth-ranked Canada could be drawn with two top-five teams in the group stage at the Olympic women’s soccer tournament.

On Friday, using the April rankings, FIFA released the makeup of the pots to be used in next Wednesday’s draw to determine the three groups of four for the women’s field in Tokyo.

Pot 1 contains host Japan (ranked No. 11), the U.S. (No. 1), and the Netherlands (No. 3) while Pot 2 is made up of Sweden (No. 5), Britain (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are ranked separately by FIFA) and Brazil (No. 7).

Canada is in Pot 3 along with Australia (No. 9) and China (No. 14). Pot 4 consists of New Zealand (No. 22), Chile (No. 37) and Zambia (No. 104).

Britain qualified via England’s performance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup — the three best-placed European teams earned Olympic berths — so was allocated to a pot based on England’s position (No. 6) in the rankings.

FIFA says the “general principle” for the tournament draw is to ensure that no group has more than one team from the same confederation so Canada should avoid the Americans to start.

The Canadian women could find themselves in a group with Sweden, which knocked them out of the 2019 World Cup in France in the round of 16. And drawing Japan, the lowest-ranked team in Pot A, is no guarantee of success given Canada is 4-7-3 against the Japanese, losing 4-0 last time out in October 2019.

Former Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen will help with the draw in Zurich. The former defender captained New Zealand at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Former U.S. international Lindsay Tarpley, who won gold in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008) will also assist.

Canada (ranked 10th at the time) was drawn in a group with Germany (No. 2), Australia (No. 5) and Zimbabwe (No. 95) at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Canadian women upset Germany to top the group with three wins. They defeated France 1-0 in the quarterfinals before falling 2-0 to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals. Canada then downed Brazil 2-1 to win bronze, repeating its performance from the 2012 Games in London.

Canada remained at No. 8 in the FIFA rankings released Friday. But this time it does not have company there with Brazil moving up one place to No. 7 at the expense of Australia, which fell two spots to No. 9.

The U.S. and Germany remained 1-2 with the Netherlands leapfrogging France into No. 3.

The rest of the top 10 has France, Sweden, England, Brazil, Canada, Australia and North Korea

Also next week, the 16 men’s sides in Tokyo will be drawn into four groups of four (Groups A to D).

Pot 1: Japan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea.

Pot 2: Mexico, Germany, Honduras, Spain.

Pot 3: Egypt, New Zealand, Ivory Coast, South Africa.

Pot 4: Australia, Saudi Arabia, France, Romania,

The Olympic soccer tournament runs July 21 to Aug. 7 in Tokyo, Sapporo, Miyagi, Kashima, Saitama and Yokohama.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021

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