U.S. women’s soccer team opens Tokyo Olympics with showdown match

FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019"Women:  United States of America v The Netherlands"
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The U.S. women’s soccer team’s first Tokyo Olympic opponent is Sweden, which knocked the Americans out of the Rio Olympics.

The Americans face the Swedes on July 21, the first day of competition across all sports and two days before the Opening Ceremony, at Tokyo Stadium.

Soccer traditionally begins group play before the cauldron is lit. Softball, returning to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, also has games before the Opening Ceremony.

The U.S. was also grouped with Australia and New Zealand in Wednesday’s draw.

The top two teams in the group advance to the quarterfinals, which is where Sweden stunned the U.S. in penalty kicks at the Rio Games, marking the Americans’ only elimination in an Olympics or World Cup since 2011.

Then-U.S. goalie Hope Solo called the Swedes, then coached by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, “a bunch of cowards” for their style of play. Solo was suspended for six months and hasn’t played for the national team since.

The U.S. was also grouped with Sweden at the 2019 World Cup, winning 2-0 en route to a repeat title. No nation has followed a World Cup crown with an Olympic title.

The U.S. Olympic roster, led by new coach Vlatko Andonovski, hasn’t been named. It will likely include many of the top players from Rio, like Megan Rapinoe, who recently reflected on the Sweden defeat.

“We have very high standards for the team, which is championship or total failure, so we felt like total failures,” she said. “It definitely left, I wouldn’t say a bad taste. I think it left a fire under people to never let that happen again.”

In the men’s draw, Brazil and Germany were grouped together and meet in their opening match the day before the Opening Ceremony. That’s a rematch of the Rio Olympic final won on Neymar‘s penalty kick in a shootout at the Maracana.

The U.S. men failed to qualify for the Olympics for a third consecutive time.

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