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Olympic draw kind to U.S. women
by Paul Kennedy, April 21st, 2008 6:31AM
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[WOMEN"S SCOUTING REPORT] The USA's draw for the 2008 Olympic women's soccer tournament could have been a lot worse. Compared to Group F, which features 2007 Women's World Cup champion Germany, runner-up Brazil and quarterfinalist North Korea, as well as African powerhouse Nigeria, Group G looks like a cakewalk with Norway, Japan and New Zealand.

Group E with host China, Sweden, Canada and Argentina completes the 12-team tournament.

The U.S. women, gold-medalists in 1996 and 2004 and silver-medalists in 2000, will open the Olympics on Aug. 6 against Norway in Qinhuangdao at the 34-seat Olympic Center Stadium, then face Japan on Aug. 9 before finishing group play on Aug. 12 against New Zealand in Shenyang at the 60,000-seat Olympic Center Stadium .

The top two teams in each of the three groups plus the two best third-place teams after the completion of first-round play will advance to the quarterfinals.

"This is a very unique moment in that a Swede will be helping represent the U.S. in an Olympic tournament," said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. "I am very excited about both the U.S. team and the Swedish team and I guess it turned out well that Sweden is not in our bracket!"

Sundhage on the U.S. opponents ...

On Norway:
"We know that Norway is a very strong team, that they are very well organized and very focused on transition. When you play Norway, it is very much a game of transition and we will need to be very patient and find the right moments in our attacking. They are also very good with set plays so we will need to be sharp in our defending in that area as well."

On Japan:
"Japan is a very technical team and every player is very comfortable with the ball. We will need to be well organized on defense playing against Japan as they like to move the ball around quickly. They have very high expectations and their goal will be to win a medal. They have great fighting spirit and all of their players are fast and quick."

On New Zealand:
"New Zealand is an up-and-coming team, a very interesting team and one that has improved a lot with the new head coach. We will need to be on top of our game in order to overcome their enthusiasm. They have played in the World Cup and have some international tournament experience so we respect their willingness to work very hard all over the field and we appreciate their excitement of playing in an Olympics."



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