Path to the podium: Women’s football
19 July 2016
FOOTBALL: The Australian women’s football team will return to the Olympic Games for the first time since Athens 2004 and will go in hunt of the nation’s first medal in the sport at Rio.
Having made it through to the quarter-final phase of a World Cup for the first time in 2015 and then going undefeated through the Asian qualifiers the side has moved up to fifth in the world and will be tough to beat in Brazil.
The Rio 2016 competition features three groups each with four teams with the top two teams guaranteed to progress through to the quarter-finals while the two best ranked third placed teams will then also make the knockout phase of the competition.
The Aussies have been drawn alongside tournament heavyweights Germany, Canada and Zimbabwe in Group E in the tournament.
Having played in two World Cups, an Asian Cup and in both the W-League and the US, Caitlin Foord has lined up against many of the players Australia is likely to face in Rio and runs us through her expectations of their prospective opponents.
World ranking: 2nd
Best Olympic Games result: bronze – 2000, 2004, 2008
Foord: “Germany have been in the top 3 for so many years. They’ve always been very good and it’s going to be a tough game for all of us. For most of us we’ve never played them before so it will be a new challenge for us.”
World ranking: 10th
Best Olympic Games result: bronze - 2012
Foord: “Myself and most of the girls that have spent time playing in the US have played against most of their players. We’ve had one practice game against them a few years ago. They’re very similar to the US in the fact that they are a big, physical and strong side. Having played the US at the World Cup we know they’re going to be similar to them and we can use a similar game plan against them.”
World ranking: 54th
Best Olympic Games result: Never qualified prior to Rio
Previous match result: Never played Australia
Foord: “We don’t really know too much about them. In the World Cup we played against another African team in Nigeria who we didn’t know much about so we can use what we learnt from that match. As it gets closer we’ll look more into their style play.”
If Australia make the knockout phase of the competition the following quarter-final scenarios will unfold.
If Australia tops their group – They will face the runner up of Group G which features world number one USA, France (3rd), New Zealand (16th) and Colombia (24th).
If Australia finishes runner up – They will face the runner up of Group E which features world number six Sweden, Brazil (8th), China (12th) and South Africa (54th).
If Australia finishes as one of the two best ranked third place teams – They will either face the winner of Group E or G.
Two key teams that Australia are likely to face if they push for a medal in Rio are four-time Olympic champions USA and hosts and two-time silver medallists Brazil.
World ranking: 1st
Best Olympic Games result: gold – 1996, 2004, 2008, 2012
Previous match result: USA 3-1 Australia (2015 World Cup)
Foord: “We last played the US at the World Cup where we lost 3-1 but we didn’t think the score line reflected the game. If we come up against them we are all going to be pretty excited. When we played them in the World Cup we dominated the first half but were a bit unlucky to not score more goals with Hope Solo pulling off some blinder saves. On our day I think we can beat anyone.”
World ranking: 8th
Best Olympic Games result: silver – 2004, 2008
Previous match result: Brazil 0-1 Australia (2015 World Cup)
Foord: “The playing at home will definitely tough playing at home in front of a massive crowd. We knocked them out at the World Cup so they’ll be keen to get some revenge on us which would make it a tough game if we faced them. When we beat them at the World Cup it was our first win at a knockout stage of a World Cup which was also exciting for us.”
Australia’s road to a medal at Rio is not easy but Foord and her teammates will head in to the 2016 Games knowing they can make history: “We are a close knit family and to know that the person next to you is going to be working just as hard for you as you are for them. We definitely think we can beat any country on any given day.”