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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Tokyo Olympics: US and Sweden focus on preparing for women’s soccer showdown

Two of the world’s best women’s soccer teams gave the Tokyo Olympics a dramatic start 48 hours before the opening ceremony when top-ranked United face Sweden on Wednesday.

The game will be played on a platform surrounded by issues. Delayed by a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Games will go on despite a state of emergency and restrictions on spectators. About 80% of the Japanese population is opposed to hosting the three-week sports festival, which is expected to cost $15.4 billion.

The US-Sweden game, scheduled for 1:30 pm Pacific, will be broadcast live on USA Network and Telemundo. It is not only a struggle of world powers, but it is also a combination of animosity. Sweden had eliminated the United States on penalty kicks at the Rio Games five years earlier – the only time the Americans had failed to win a medal at the Olympics.

SOLNA, SWEDEN – APRIL 10: Kelly O’Hara of the USA passes the ball to Joanna Anderson of Sweden during the Women’s International Friendship between Sweden and USA at Friends Arena on April 10, 2021 in Solna, Sweden. Sports stadiums around Sweden are under strict restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic as government social distancing laws restrict fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Linnea Reborg/Getty Images)

“It’s a loss I’ve thought about a lot over the past five years,” former Stanford star Kelly O’Hara said in a video call from Tokyo.

The men’s and women’s Olympic football tournaments traditionally begin two days before the opening ceremony because stadiums across the country with built-in rest days take time to organize.

Also starting early is softball, which has returned to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. The United States plays against Italy on Tuesday and against Canada in Fukushima on Wednesday.

The US Soccer opener is a major sporting moment for the Games. The Americans are trying to become the first country to win back-to-back World Cups and Olympics. They won the 2019 World Cup in France where they defeated Sweden 2-0 in group play.

The indomitable O’Hara won’t get bogged down in the historical value of winning the gold medal.

But “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it,” said O’Hara, a fullback in his third Olympics. “Probably most of the team has and probably has coaches and staff.”

The United States would know about their overall chances against a Swedish team, with some analysts saying it is as good as any team in the world. Swedish players are no longer a thing to fear from the Americans, who have won four of six Olympic tournaments for women, and finished second in 2000.

The veneer of invincibility has been eroded as players from both countries have become teammates or rivals in club competitions, including the National Women’s Football League.

For example, O’Hara and defender Emily Sonnet are Washington Spirit teammates along with Olympian Julia Roder of Sweden and Saori Takarada of Japan.

According to a Swedish reporter, Rodar called the Americans arrogant.

“Come on now,” said O’Hara. “I have to text him to say that. It’s not true. I don’t feel overly confident. I know what it takes to win a big tournament.”

Lynn Williams (13) and Samantha Mavis (3) of the United States celebrate Williams’ goal against Haiti during the second half of a women’s Olympic qualifying soccer match in Houston last year. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

US forward Lynn Williams of Fresno said Sweden presents a challenge because of its physical presence and organized structure.

“It’s going to be good viewing from a viewer’s point of view,” she said of the TV audience only.

SOLNA, SWEDEN – APRIL 10: Sofia Jacobson of Sweden faces Kelly O’Hara of the United States, leading to a penalty and scored by Megan Rapinoe of the United States (not pictured), between Sweden and the USA Her team’s first goal during the Women’s International Friendship at Friends Arena on April 10, 2021 in Solna, Sweden. Sports stadiums around Sweden are under strict restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic as government social distancing laws restrict fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Linnea Reborg/Getty Images)

O’Hara, one of nine players with Bay Area connections on the 22-women roster, said playing against Sweden adds to the intensity of the get-go because of the countries’ football histories.

“It can’t feel like a big tournament if we weren’t playing Sweden at some point,” she said.

Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates after scoring her team’s first goal with Kristi Mavis, Alex Morgan and Kelly O’Hara during the Sweden and USA Women’s International Friendship at Friends Arena on April 10, 2021 in Solna, Sweden. (Photo by Linnea Reborg/Getty Images)

The United States and Sweden drew 1-1 at an exhibition in Stockholm in April when Redding’s star Megan Rapinoe converted a late penalty kick. The games were played in an empty Friends Arena, perhaps a perfect preparation for the Olympics.

The Americans will face New Zealand without O’Hara’s Stanford teammate Ali Riley on Saturday and the group match against No.8 Australia ends next Tuesday.

Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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