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Tokyo Olympics: OlyWhites secure kindest possible draw for men’s football tournament

The OlyWhites national under-24 men’s football team have avoided superpowers Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain and France at the Tokyo Olympics after being handed the kindest draw possible.

They will face South Korea, Honduras, and Romania – the least heralded of the four European qualifiers – in group B at the 16-team tournament, where the top two teams will advance to the quarterfinals.

The Football Ferns national women’s team will face the reigning world champions, the United States; Sweden, who they have never played before, and trans-Tasman rivals Australia in group G in their 12-team tournament.

The football tournaments will be the first events to get underway in Japan, with the women’s event beginning on Wednesday, July 21, two days before the opening ceremony, and the men’s event beginning on July 22.

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The Football Ferns’ best finish in their three participations so far was in London in 2012, when they beat Cameroon 3-1 during the group stage to register their first Olympic win and advance to the quarterfinals, where they lost to the US.

They will begin their campaign against Australia on July 21 (kickoff 11.30pm NZ time) before facing the US on July 24 (also 11.30pm) and Sweden on July 27 (8pm), seeking to finish in the top two, or as one of the two best third-placed teams, to advance to the quarterfinals.

The OlyWhites have never made it past the group stage in two participations, with their best results draws with China, 1-1, in Beijing in 2008, and Egypt, also 1-1, in London in 2012.

Their campaign will begin against South Korea on July 22 (kickoff 8pm NZ time), with Honduras after that on July 25 (also 8pm), and Romania on July 28 (8.30pm).

Hosts Japan will be joined in group A for the men’s tournament by South Africa, Mexico, and France, with Egypt, Spain, Argentina, and Australia in group C, and Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast, and Saudi Arabia in group D.

In the women’s tournament, Japan will play Canada, Great Britain and Chile in group E, while China, Brazil, Zambia, and the Netherlands are in group F.

While there are no restrictions on squad composition for the women’s tournament, men’s teams will predominantly consist of under-24 players (those born 1997 or later), with only three older players allowed.

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Competing nations are allowed to select 18 players in their squads (including two goalkeepers), as well as four travelling reserves (including one goalkeeper), who can only play if one of the original 18 is injured.

Tokyo Olympics – men’s football tournament

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

OlyWhites’ fixtures (all NZ time)

Thursday, July 22: v South Korea, 8pm

Sunday, July 25: v Honduras, 8pm

Wednesday, July 28: v Romania, 8.30pm

Tokyo Olympics – women’s football tournament

Group E: Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile

Group F: China, Brazil, Zambia, Netherlands

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

Football Ferns’ fixtures (all NZ time)

Wednesday, July 21: v Australia, 11.30pm

Saturday, July 24: v United States, 11.30pm

Tuesday, July 27: v Sweden, 8pm

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