US women to face New Zealand, France, Colombia in Olympics

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2016 8:10 PM
US women to face New Zealand, France, Colombia in Olympics

The U.S. women's soccer team will open its quest for a fourth straight Olympic gold medal against New Zealand, then play France and Colombia in the first round of the tournament in Brazil.

The Americans were drawn Thursday to play New Zealand on Aug. 3 at Belo Horizonte. The U.S. meets France three days later, also in Belo Horizonte, then plays Colombia on Aug. 9 at Manaus in the Amazon, where the American men tied Portugal 2-2 at the 2014 World Cup.

If the United States wins Group G, it would play its quarterfinal on Aug. 12 in Brasilia against a third-place team from one of the other two groups. The Brasilia winner would advance to a semifinal on Aug. 16 in Rio de Janeiro's Maracana, where the final will be played on Aug. 19.

"We have tremendous respect for all of our opponents and know each one will bring a different style that we must be prepared for, but as always our prime focus continues to be on the evolution of this team so we are playing our best during the Olympics," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said in a statement.

Brazil, China, South Africa and Sweden are in Group E, and Australia, Canada, Germany and Zimbabwe are in Group F.

Canada and the United States each qualified for the Olympics at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Texas earlier this year. The Canadians finished with the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.

"The reality now is to try to fix up good games prior to the event ... to make sure that we get the type of games we need with the opponents we have in our group stage," Canada coach John Herdman told The Canadian Press.

There are 12 teams in the women's tournament and 16 in the men's tournament. The U.S. has won four of the five gold medals in women's soccer, missing only when it lost to Norway in the 2000 final.

Following Thursday's draw, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo told Sports Illustrated that she will play in Brazil, despite fears she expressed in February about the Zika virus.

While she said she would take steps to protect herself, she expressed concern about the match in Manaus. Mosquitoes, which carry diseases including Zika and malaria, were also an issue there during the 2014 World Cup.

"I'm disheartened that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) will not be moving the games from Manaus to at least help the risk," she wrote to SI. "Knowing what we know about Zika, it's irresponsible."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently confirmed that Zika is a cause of a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes abnormal brain development and is marked by infants born with small heads.