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2016 Olympic preview: USA expected to top Group G

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The United States should top Group G - if they can get past France

United States v Costa Rica: Group A - 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This article is part of our ongoing 2016 Olympic coverage. For more, check out our Olympic section.

Group G
United States
New Zealand
France
Colombia

Schedule
August 3, 6 PM ET, USA vs New Zealand
August 6, 4 PM ET USA vs France
August 9, 6 PM ET USA vs Colombia
Full schedule here

Group G is interesting in that it has two clear frontrunners, but it also has two teams that should not be slept on at all, making it a group where certain things are highly probable but surprise outcomes may lurk around the corner.

The United States and France will undoubtedly be duking it out for the top spot in the group; the winner of Group G plays third place from Group E or F in quarterfinals, which is probably preferable to coming second and having to play the winner of Group F, which is likely to be Germany.

United States

FIFA ranking: 1
Best finish: 1st place (2012, 2008, 2004, 1996)

The US will be going into the Olympics off a series of fairly successful friendlies that, for the most part, showed a versatile attacking team with a number of options for scoring goals. Mal Pugh distinguished herself in their sendoff game against Costa Rica with her savvy, which is impressive not just for an 18-year-old but for any senior national team player. She’ll be part of an impressive cadre of forwards supported by midfielders who are more than capable of their fair share of rabble rousing. Behind them, a solid defense that may nevertheless prove a liability along the flanks if they get caught in a fast counter and their wingbacks can’t recover in time.

France

FIFA ranking: 3
Best finish: 4th (2012)

France will be their biggest competition, although they recently got hit with two injury announcements, removing defenders Laure Boulleau and Laura Georges from the roster. Their squad isn’t lacking for veteran leadership though, with the likes of Camille Abily and Wendie Renard still onboard. France recently struggled to defeat Canada, though they were rotating in alternate players; nevertheless their midfield struggled to put a definitive stamp on the game and their defense showed some vulnerability to threaded passes. They’ll need to tighten that up in order to avoid having to struggle too hard in group to get a good placement.

Colombia

FIFA ranking: 24
Best finish: 11th (2012)

Colombia is an interesting team in that they might not be able to quite hang with the United States, but they can certainly adapt and prove troublesome to lock down, as they proved quite ably by stunning France with a 2-0 victory during group stage of the 2015 World Cup. Looking at their two friendlies against the US in April, they were soundly defeated, but were able to adjust defensively between games to bring the scoreline from a 7-0 romp to a more respectable 3-0. Unfortunately for them, star Yoreli Rincon was ruled out of the Olympics with a fractured fibula, placing much of the scoring burden on Lady Andrade, who showed herself a clever, crafty player during the World Cup

New Zealand

FIFA ranking: 17
Best finish: 8th (2012)

New Zealand has essentially taken over Oceania ever since Australia left for the AFC. They have a fairly experienced squad, with 12 players carrying at least 50 caps into the tournament, and younger players like Rosie White and Katie Bowen already well seasoned. They’ll be looking to veterans Amber Hearn and Sarah Gregorius to help carry the scoring load and hopefully finish better than last in group as they did in 2015. They’re a tough, athletic team with some quality at defensive mid and a bit of depth on the bench that might help them with squad rotation, which can sometimes make all the difference with such a compressed tournament schedule.

Predictions

  1. United States
  2. France
  3. Colombia
  4. New Zealand