Almost a year after winning the World Cup, the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNST) is sure to head to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo as one of the top faves, if not the team to beat in the race for gold.
Sportsbooks have yet to release odds for Tokyo 2020 in its entirety, including those for the women’s soccer tournament that would confirm this expectation. Where the women’s game is concerned, not all the contending nations are known yet. Several national teams are still to complete the qualification process.
That said, even when the full list is established, it’s hard to see how any other team could leapfrog the Americans in market estimation in order to emerge as the so-called best bet to win. There’s perception and a tradition of success that is sure to underpin USA’s betting value.
Not for nothing are the Americans the No.1 ranked team in the women’s game and the manner in which they stormed to World Cup glory in France last year – beginning with their first match, which was a 13-0 decimation of Thailand, and culminating with a 2-0 win over the Netherlands at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Décines-Charpieu on July 7, – brooks no argument on that score. Simply put, the Americans are the best in women’s soccer, bar none.
USA’s history at the Olympic Games rivals their success at the World Cup – in both competitions, the Americans have claimed bragging rights four times. Moreover, the Americans have featured in every single Olympics since women’s soccer was added to the schedule of events at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
At the last Olympics though, things didn’t go to plan when the Americans suffered a shock early exit in Rio. They were upset in the quarterfinals by a resilient Sweden in a penalty shootout to send seismic shockwaves through the tournament.
Sweden went on to finish as runners-up to Germany while Canada picked up bronze honors following a 2-1 victory over host nation, Brazil.
It’s safe to say, Rio was a bitter pill to swallow, one of the most humbling chapters in the history of U.S women’s national soccer. Perhaps that disappointment in Brazil was the catalyst that propelled USA to put forward one of the most sublime, focused and ruthless accounts ever witnessed at the World Cup.
Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, two of several outstanding contributors to USA’s momentous fourth World Cup title in France last year, are set to lead a 20-player U.S. Olympic team. The pair are currently honing their craft at the SHEBELIEVESCUP, where they’ve carried their side to the final and a date against Japan.
A promising qualifying campaign followed by a successful warm-up campaign for the Olympics is sure to stand the Americans in good stead when they descend on the Tokyo 2020 Games.
However, if there were a lesson to be had from the 2016 Olympic Games, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted, including favorable odds. Anything can happen when national glory is at stake on the biggest stage in sport.
From the European front, the biggest threat to USA is posed by the Netherlands, who are the third-best nation in FIFA’s current rankings. The Dutch were runners-up at the World Cup. L’Oranje had a sensational tournament to reach the final, outplaying just about every other nation except for USA.
Sweden and England – ranked fifth and sixth respectively in FIFA rankings – are also headed to Tokyo 2020, where they’ll be eager to make a fist of it. Both Sweden and England endured a gratifying World Cup campaign in France, finishing third and fourth, respectively.
After these three European hopefuls, Canada, ranked eighth in the world, are likely to be deemed dangerous floaters in the competition, along with ninth-ranked Brazil and tenth-ranked Japan. In fact, the latter side is one of the only nations to beat the Americans in a final.
Japan upset America at the 2011 World Cup final, which to date ranks as one of the most spectacular games in women’s football, not to mention one of the most viewed finals. With home advantage going for the Nadeshiko, it would be grossly remiss to overlook their legitimate credentials to emerge victorious.
Of course, there’s a way to go before the Olympic Games get underway this summer in Tokyo and anything before the tournament draw is actually determined is merely conjecture.