This past Thursday, April 14th at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio, the matches of the men’s and women’s Olympics football tournament were drawn. Colombia has qualified on both sides and will have rough rivals on each.
For the women, the “Cafeteras” were drawn to face France, New Zealand, and the United States in Group G. Brazil will play Sweden, China, and South Africa in Group E, and Canada, Zimbabwe, Australia and Germany will be part of Group F. In this competition, the top two teams in each group, and the two best ranked thirds will progress straight to the quarter-finals.
The Colombian women’s team will get on the road to the gold medal by playing their two opening matches in Belo Horizonte, the first with France on August 3rd and later, against New Zealand on the 6th. The last group level game will be played in Manaus on the 9th, against the United States.
The “Superpoderosas”, as the Colombian girls are known, won’t have it easy through the group stage. Not only do they have to play against the title favorites, the US, who have won four out of five Olympic titles, but also they’ll have to go up against the Oceanic Champs, New Zealand, which qualified for this tournament after their rival on the confederation final (Papua New Guinea) didn’t even bother coming to the last game arguing that they couldn’t win anyways (in the previous match the “all whites” defeated them 7-1).
The recent past pitted Colombia up against both the Americans and the French in the 2015 Women’s World Cup and at the 2012 Olympics. In London, Colombia couldn’t tackle the first round and the “Cafeteras” lost both games, first against France 0-1, and then against the US 0-3. In the WWC in Canada, where Colombia made it to the second round, they defeated the Europeans 2-0 on the group phase but were eliminated by the stars and stripes after losing 0-2.
In the men’s tournament, a total of 32 matches will be played. Colombia will be kicking off against Sweden in Manaus on August 4th and after that, in the same city, we’ll face Japan on the 7th, and finally the last group stage game will be played against Nigeria in Sao Paulo on the 10th.
As hosts, Brazil has been drawn alongside South Africa, Iraq and Denmark in Group A. Brazil has never been Olympic champions and lost to Mexico in the final in 2012. Holders are in Group C with Germany, Fiji, and South Korea, while Algeria, Portugal, Honduras, and Argentina make up Group D.
Across all teams in each cluster, Colombia seems to be the group of death. All our rivals were qualified by winning their respective tournament; Sweden won the UEFA European under 21, Nigeria the African under 23 Championship, and Japan got the title of the Asian under 23 Cup. On the other hand, Colombia was the second in the South American under 20 and qualified to Rio after beating the US male team in a two-legged play-off.
In the men’s tournament, the top two teams in each group will progress straight to the quarter-finals. All the crews will be restricted to under-23 players only, with just three over-age players allowed in the squad.
After 24 years of absence from the Olympics, our team is hoping to improve upon past performance. In Barcelona in 1992 we didn’t even pass the group stage. This time, we’ll be counting on the stars of the absolute national team, but with the Copa America being played on the same summer break, most of them would probably rather go to the continental tournament.
Some of the big names that may appear on the teams are David Ospina, James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao (Colombia); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden); Neymar, Hulk (Brazil); Andrés Guardado (Mexico); and Paulo Dybala (Argentina).