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Germany will not defend Olympic women’s soccer title

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The German women’s soccer team was eliminated from the World Cup and from defending its Olympic title on Saturday.

Sweden’s 2-1 win in the World Cup quarterfinals ensured that these will be the European nations at the 2020 Olympics — Great Britain, Netherlands and Sweden.

In a change from 2016, there is no separate UEFA Olympic women’s qualifying tournament; only the top three countries from the World Cup go to Tokyo, which ended up being the three teams that reached the semifinals along with the U.S.

So the world’s second- and fourth-ranked teams (Germany, France) will not be at the Olympics. The top-ranked U.S. can qualify for Tokyo at a CONCACAF tournament in 2020.

Germany beat Sweden 2-1 in the 2016 Olympic final to join the U.S. and Norway as the only nations to win Olympic women’s soccer gold.

Norway is the only other nation to fail to qualify for the Olympics after winning the women’s soccer title four years earlier, missing the Athens 2004 event.

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Eden Hazard eyes Olympics with Belgium, but obstacles ahead

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Eden Hazard is about to leave Chelsea for Real Madrid, but he also eyes another new squad: the Belgium Olympic team.

The star forward told a Belgian coach that he wants to play at the Tokyo Olympics, but significant obstacles are in the way for him to be an overage exception next year.

“Hazard has already asked me if he could come to Tokyo if we qualify,” Belgian Under-21 coach Johan Walem reportedly said last week, according to a Marca translation. “If we qualify, I will stick with the group that played at the [U21 European Championship]. But I already know that picking a squad for an Olympics will be difficult.”

Inherently difficult. Olympic men’s soccer teams are typically under-23 affairs, but each nation is allowed to pick three overage players. These exceptions included Neymar and Ryan Giggs at the last two Olympics.

But adding an overage star typically comes at the expense of a player who helped a nation qualify for the Olympics, such as at the European U21 Championship later this month. The top four at that event will be Europe’s representatives at Tokyo 2020.

Belgium must get out of a tough group at Euro U21s, one that includes Spain and Italy.

But if Belgium’s junior players get out of the group and qualify for the Olympics (for just the second time since 1928), Hazard would have a strong argument to be added for the Olympics. He won the Silver Ball as the second-best player at the 2018 World Cup, where Belgium placed third, its best finish ever.

“Right now, I have more than 30 players and reducing this to 23 for the Euros was a hellish task, and reducing it to 18 [for the Olympics] would be impossible,” Walem said, according to the report.

Hazard’s situation is complicated by the fact he would be a centerpiece of Belgium’s team at the 2020 European Championship, which end 11 days before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament.

In past Olympics, clubs have been under no obligation to release players for the Games. In summer 2016, Neymar did not play Copa America Centenario and in exchange was allowed to play at the Rio Olympics.

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Gianluigi Buffon dreams of another Olympic chance

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Gianluigi Buffon wants to finish his career at the Olympics, some 24 years after he came to the Atlanta Games and didn’t play a single minute, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. At 42, he would be older than any previous Olympic soccer participant, according to Olympic historians.

If Buffon has any career regrets, one has to be the Olympics.

The legendary Italian goalie, then 18, appeared in line to play at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Until the federation made use of a new rule allowing three players over the age of 23 per team. One of the chosen ones was 29-year-old Gianluca Pagliuca, who was Italy’s No. 1 at the 1994 World Cup. Buffon was still on the team, but he didn’t play a minute in Atlanta behind Pagliuca. Italy bowed out in the group stage.

Buffon said in 2008 that, after what happened in Atlanta, he would not accept a potential invitation to be on the Olympic team as an overage player, taking the place of one of the U23 keepers, according to the newspaper. Only junior players are allowed in Olympic qualifying, with the overage exceptions brought in for the Games.

Italy still must qualify for Tokyo. The top four nations at the European Under-21 Championship later this month earn berths. Italy and San Marino are co-hosts.

Buffon said in May 2018 that he retired from the national team.

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