The U.S. Men’s did not qualify for the Olympics this time around, but the Women’s more than make-up for gap. The rest of the world has started to catch up to the might of the U.S. Women. While they won the last two Olympics, Japan took the last World Cup. Here are the highlights to help you get on the bandwagon early.
Favorites – USA
Led by sure-footed Alex Morgan, the U.S. squad is filled with offensive firepower. She’ll pair up alongside Abby Wambach … and firepower is an understatement. Combined they have destroyed opposing defenses. The defense is shored up with goalkeeper Hope Solo. The pride of U-Dub will try to shake off a pre- Olympic pot bust and live up to her budding stardom. Learn the names Megan Rapinoe and Christie Rampone, but confuse them at your own risk.
Contenders – Brazil
Brazil is led by five time FIFA Player of the Year, Marta and Christiane. The Brazilian Women are the new Spain (M). They routinely get close to winning major tournaments but always fail to win the last game. This may be their year but sooner or later they will have to take down USA. Will the memories of an OT loss in the Gold Medal game to the U.S. in Athens ’04 be a motivator or a precedent?
Champs – Japan
Coming off of last year’s World Cup win, Japan is looking to continue to roll and prove they were no fluke. They play smart football comprised of short passes a la Spain (M) led by Homare Sawa. However, the emotions from a homeland wrecked by a tsunami won’t be there to propel them the same … or will it?
Seekers – Sweden & France
Lotta Schelin is only a fun name to say if you’re not facing her. Her foot is devasting and she is supported by a strong Sweedish team that made the semis during last year’s World Cup.
France also lost in the semis (to the U.S.) and can be counted on to push the top teams to the limits. Louisa Necib is the star but they have strength in all areas.
Villians – North Korea
Several players are banned from the next World cup for PED use. For misguided reasons, they will still be allowed to compete in the Olympics. In their usual comical off-field ways, they blamed musk deer gland therapy for the failing…. And that therapy was for the lighting strike that was blamed for their loss from the World Cup. Hijinx aside, several teams are upset they are in the tournament at all.
Hometown Kids – Great Britain
With homefield advantage, the Brits look to medal and show their countrymen something the men’s squad has failed to do in a very, very long time … win a major tournament. The women will need some big play from Kelly Smith who is coming off a major injury.
Underdogs to Root For – South Africa
The South African women have little chance of winning the tournament, let alone survive the group stage. But, this is the Olympics and sometimes rooting on athletes just for competing can bring tears. It has been reported that several of the players were victims of beatings or “corrective rapings”; a raping of a lesbian to “cure” them of their sexual orientation. It won’t matter this is the first time South Africa has qualified for a major tournament. It won’t matter if they medal or advance. They will prove they are still standing and shed some light on the issue, and in the process, they will be the embodiment of the Olympic spirit.
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