Ill-considered women’s draw puts U.S. in Group F with powers Norway, China.
(Monday, June 5, 2000) -- Proving once again the faulty leadership of international soccer, the draw for women’s soccer in the 2000 Summer Olympics ensures that at least one of the best three teams in the world will not advance to the semifinals of the tournament September 13-29 in Australia.
Eight teams are in the women’s tournament and the best three, clearly now and for more than a decade, were drawn into same group. The United States, China and Norway, along with Nigeria make up Group F where the top two finishers advance to the semifinals.
Group E consists of Australia, Germany, Sweden and Brazil.
The U.S. received a more reasonable draw in the 16-nation men’s tournament, grouped with the Czech Republic, Cameroon and Kuwait
In the women’s Group F, the U.S. has claimed two of the three world championships (1991, ’99) and the only Olympic gold medal in 1996. Norway, the only country with a winning record against the Americans, won the 1995 world championship after losing to the U.S. in 1991. China was runnerup to the U.S. in the ’96 Olympics and ’99 World Cup.
In its infinite (lack of) wisdom, world governing body FIFA only seeded two nations, the defending Women’s World Cup champ U.S. and the host, Australia, which not only has never won a major international competition, but has not even been competitive in one.
"No question the process was flawed," said U.S. women’s coach April Heinrichs. "They’ve never had three teams this good in a bracket like this. They should have seeded four teams. . . We’ve never had a draw this tough in a major tournament."
The U.S. women will open play against Norway September 14 at the 110,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground, then move across town to face China September 17 and Nigeria September 20.
The U.S. men were the first team drawn for Group C and will open September 13 probably their toughest group opponent, the Czech Republic in Canberra, also the site of their September 16 meeting with Cameroon. Then it’s on to Melbourne to play Kuwait September 19.
"It's an even draw. Most of the powers are pretty spread out," said U.S. men’s Olympic coach Clive Charles. "It's going to be tough, as it always is, but we have no complaints."
The women’s tournament includes the national teams. The men’s event is for under-23 national teams, with three "overage" players allowed.
The draw with U.S and elimination round schedules (all times Eastern):
Group E - Australia, Germany, Sweden, Brazil.
September 14 - United States vs. Norway in Melbourne, 3:30 a.m.
Group A - Australia. Italy, Nigeria, Honduras.
September 13 - United States vs. Czech Republic in Canberra, 6 a.m.
September 16 - United States vs. Cameroon in Canberra, 6 a.m.