(WFI) Football teams qualified for the Olympic Games now know their group stage opponents.
On April 14, Rio 2016 and FIFA held the Olympic football tournament draw at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Sixteen men’s teams and 12 women’s teams participated in the draw. The master of ceremonies for the event was Fernanda Gentil, while World Cup winner Ronaldinho helped with the draw. Ronaldinho was joined by Brazilian sporting stars Aline Pellegrino, football star, Maurren Maggi, gold medalist in long jump from Beijing 2008, and Janeth Arcain, two time Olympic medalist in basketball.
Host Brazil was drawn into Groups A and E for the men and women’s teams respectively. The men’s team will play their group stage matches in Brasilia and Salvador, while the women’s team will play their group stage matches in Rio de Janeiro and Manaus.
The first match of the Olympic football tournament will be a women’s game between Sweden and South Africa in Belo Horizonte.
Brazil is looking to win their first gold medal in Olympic football on home soil. The men’s football team has won five World Cup championships, but never an Olympic gold medal.
During the draw Ronaldinho said that he had “much confidence” in the host country to deliver a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Men’s national team head coach Dunga told reporters at the draw that building a squad will be difficult as many of the top under-23 players will be training with clubs in Europe to prepare for the upcoming season, when the Olympics begin. Dunga would not guarantee that superstar Neymar would be included in the team, as the Brazilian Football Federation continues to work with FC Barcelona to release the player for the tournament.
“We have to respect all clubs; we are talking to them and when we have something definitive, we will advise,” Dunga told reporters. “I think there will always be pressure in the selection. We want to build a strong group with the best.”
Current football champions Mexico, for the men, and the United States, for the women, will be looking to repeat the success from the London 2012 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Mexico was drawn into a group with Germany, Republic of Korea, and Olympic football newcomers Fiji. Head coach Raul Gutierrez told reporters that no match will be simple during the Games and no team can be underestimated.
The United States was drawn into a group with New Zealand, France, and Colombia. The reigning World Cup champions are currently in a dispute with the United States Soccer Federation over wage discrimination. The team has filed a lawsuit against the USSF in an effort to receive pay equal to that of the men’s national team.
Graeme Abel, goalkeeping coach for the women’s national team, told Around the Rings that “preparations are going well, and will continue to go well,” in the run up to the Games. He would not say anything more about the dispute.
“It’s a great draw with great quality teams, and we are familiar with our opponents,” Abel said to ATR. “There should be some high quality games [during the Olympics].”
The Olympic football tournaments will run from Aug. 3-20 in six host cities around Brazil. The group stages will finish up on Aug. 9 and 10, with the gold medal matches being played on Aug. 19 and 20.
By INSIDER Aaron Bauer
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