In what is the "Group of Death" if there ever was one, the top-seeded United States was placed in Group F opposite its two chief rivals in China and Norway and an always dangerous Nigeria squad. The defending gold medalists, who will play all three opening round matches at the 110,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground, open against Norway on Sept. 14, face China on Sept. 17 and finish up group play versus Nigeria on Sept. 20.
The Sept. 17 contest will be a re-match of the 1996 gold medal match in which the U.S. Women used a late Tiffeny Milbrett goal to defeat China 2-1 in front of a crowd of more than 78,000 in Athens, Georgia to win the first medal of its kind. The U.S. also faced Norway in the 1996 Olympics, downing them 2-1 in overtime in the semi-finals to advance to the gold medal game. The first and last time the U.S. women faced Nigeria was in the opening round of the 1999 Women's World Cup, when the eventual champions easily dispatched the African side 7-1 at Soldier Field.
If the U.S. Women win their four-team group, they will travel to Canberra for a semifinal on Sept. 24. If the USA finishes second in its group, the semifinal would be played in Sydney, also on Sept. 24. The gold and bronze medal matches for the second Olympic Women's Soccer Tournament will be played at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sept. 28.
Drawn into Group E with host Australia were WWC semi-finalist Brazil, along with European powers Germany and Sweden. The entire women's soccer competition will take place in three cities (Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney) and run from Sept. 13 to the final game at Sydney Football Stadium on Sept. 28.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Men were the first team placed into Group C, followed by the Czech Republic, Cameroon and Kuwait. The U.S. Under-23's will compete on the first day of soccer competition on Sept. 13, opening against arguably their toughest opponent in the Czech Republic in Canberra. Team USA will stay in Canberra to take on Cameroon on Sept. 16, then join the U.S. Women in Melbourne to battle Kuwait on Sept. 19 to conclude group play.
"It's an even draw. Most of the powers are pretty spread out," said U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team head coach Clive Charles. "It's going to be tough, as it always is, but we have no complaints."
The only meeting between the U.S. U-23's and the Czech Republic in the last decade was a 1-0 loss on May 24, 1990 in Saint-Cyr, France in the annual Toulon Festival. While the U-23's have not met Cameroon in the '90's, Kuwait is a familiar Olympic opponent, as the U.S. squad earned a 3-1 win when they met in the opening round of the 1992 Olympic Games in Zaragoza, Spain.
The other results of the Men's Soccer draw, which drew four teams from four different pots to eliminate the chance of two teams from the same confederation meeting each other in opening group play, produced the following groups: (Group A) Australia, Italy, Nigeria, Honduras; (Group B) Korea Republic, Spain, Morocco, Chile; (Group D) Brazil, Slovakia, South Africa, Japan.
The Men's Soccer competition will be played across five cities (Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney) and is scheduled to run from Sept. 13 to the final at the Sydney Olympic Stadium on Sept. 30. The quarter-finals will be on Sept. 23, with the semi's on Sept. 26 and third place on Sept. 29.
While the Women's Olympic Team's clear goal is to retain their position atop the women's soccer world by successfully defending their gold medal, the U.S. Under-23 Men are looking to advance out of the opening round for the first time since their first Olympic competition in 1924 after posting a 1-1-1 record in three of the last four Olympic Games.
|Men's Draw||Women's Draw|