On Tuesday 26 April the Japan women’s national football team were informed of who would be joining them in Group F at the London 2012 Women’s Olympic Games football tournament, and it was an outcome with which they’ll be reasonably satisfied. The Nadeshiko, who qualified automatically and received a seeding by dint of their 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup victory, had also been provided with a pre-tournament boost as world second-ranked Germany failed to make London 2012, their early exit at the hands of Japan from the World Cup at the quarter-final stage to blame.
The Olympic football tournament draw saw twelve teams allocated spaces across four different pots, with each of just three seeded teams being allocated a single place in one pot. This ensured that Japan, the United States, seeded through their position as reigning Olympic champions, and Great Britain, on whom the honour of a seeding had been bestowed as hosts, could not be drawn against each other. However, as Brazil had been placed in Pot 4 with the United States, it meant either Great Britain or Japan would face a particularly tough group fixture against the A Seleção.
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Sweden||South Africa||North Korea||Canada|
Pot 1 was drawn first. As Great Britain were placed in Pot 1, Japan would meet either Sweden or France in Group F, both of whom reached the semi-final stage at the World Cup, Japan easing into the final with a 3-1 victory at the expense of the Scandinavian side, the United States defeating France by the same scoreline. Japan will not be fazed by meeting the Blågult once more, as the Swedes were placed in Group F.
Cameroon, South Africa and Colombia made up Pot 2, ranked 52, 65 and 28 in the world respectively, and Japan will find themselves facing the Banyana Banyana, the lowest ranked team in the competition. Barring an extraordinary shock result, the fixture against South Africa should not cause the Nadeshiko any difficulties, South Affrica never having qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and entering the Olympic Games football tournament for the very first time.
Then came Pot 4, and all eyes were on whether Brazil would be matched with Great Britain or Japan. Once again fortune favoured Japan, Brazil being selected for Group E, ensuring a tie with Canada. John Herdman’s side exited the World Cup at the group stage, losing all three group fixtures, and they should not prove too stern a test against a team which will almost certainly welcome Homare Sawa back to the fold, her recovery from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo almost complete.
Head Coach Norio Sasaki was respectful regarding his group opponents, saying:
We are going to play strong teams in the group stage … Sweden and Canada are ranked high in the world and South Africa are physically very strong, but we’ve been working on reaching the top at the London Olympics after finishing fourth in the Beijing Olympics.
Having drawn 1-1 with the United States and demolished Brazil 4-0 in April’s inaugural Women’s Kirin Challenge Cup, and as current world champions, the Nadeshiko will be confident of making the latter stages of the tournament. Topping Group F will mean a probable quarter-final versus either France or North Korea, and should world rankings bear any relation to form, a subsequent meeting with Great Britain or Sweden for a place in the final.
|25 July 2012
|Japan||vs||Canada||City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry|
|28 July 2012
|Japan||vs||Sweden||City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry|
|31 July 2012
|Japan||vs||South Africa||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff|