Three teams in this group are in FIFA’s top 10 while the other is making its first appearance in a women’s Olympic soccer competition. There is no room for error in Group F, and it starts out with a good one in the opening-round matchup between Canada and Australia. Points are at a premium in this group and in this matchup, neither team can look to draw.
Bracket positioning is a consideration. The top two teams out this group would stay in the half of the bracket that won’t have the United States or Brazil in it should those teams take their group’s respective top spots. Advancing out of the group in third place sets up a likely matchup with the U.S. or Brazil in a quarterfinal match.
August 3 Canada vs. Australia in São Paulo
Zimbabwe vs. Germany in São Paulo
Canada vs. Zimbabwe in São Paulo
Germany vs. Australia in São Paulo
Germany vs. Canada in Brasilia
Australia vs. Zimbabwe in Salvador
Going out on top. In what will be Silvia Neid’s last tournament at the helm for Germany, can she guide a team in transition back to the podium, a spot the Germans haven’t seen in Olympic competition since Beijing 2008?
This is could be the last Olympic tournament for legend Christine Sinclair. Can the Canadians put together an effort in this tournament to match London 2012’s epic run? Regardless of how Neid and Sinclair (maybe, okay?) go out in this tournament, they’ll both leave the game legends.
FIFA Rank: 5th
Head Coach: Allen Stajcic
Olympic History This is the country’s third appearance in a women’s Olympic soccer tournament. As host country in 2000, the Matildas didn’t make it past the group stage and finished in seventh. In Athens 2004, Australia lost in a quarterfinal match to Sweden, 1-2, and finished in fifth place.
Road to Rio Australia qualified through the 2016 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which the country won for the first time.
Outlook Development. Australia’s rise has been a long time in the making, and the question is whether it will pay dividends this tournament. Probably. This is a young squad coming off a terrific showing in the 2015 World Cup, including a 1-0 win over Brazil in the Round of 16.
Lydia Williams anchors a back line that will need to hold off the attacking options Germany possesses but Australia has weapons of its own, and will cause problems for every team in this tournament. Followers of the National Women’s Soccer League will know Steph Catley and Laura Alleway of the Orlando Pride and the defensive presence they each bring to the line.
Australia has stability across all lines and that’s seen in its midfield. Katrina Gorry was an engine at last year’s World Cup and is surrounded by Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily van Egmond, Tameka Butt, and others.
The options in the attacking third include Lisa De Vanna, Michelle Heyman, Kyah Simon, and Sam Kerr offer speed, power, and unpredictability.
All games in this group are crucial and Australia starts off against Canada but the Matildas can’t look past this match to their second group-stage meeting with Germany; earning maximum points against Canada puts them in terrific position to take out Germany and top the group.
The ever-so-slight edge, however, goes to Germany in this group; the Germans will be out to prove they’re still in the conversation, but Australia will advance out of this group to make a run in the tournament.
Lydia Williams (Houston Dash), Laura Alleway (Orlando Pride), Alanna Kennedy (Western New York Flash), Stephanie Catley (Orlando Pride), Kyah Simon (Boston Breakers), Sam Kerr (Sky Blue FC)
Olympic History Canada made its first appearance in the women’s Olympic soccer tournament in Beijing 2008, advancing out of the group stage to eventually lose to the United States in the quarterfinals, 1-2. It was in London 2012 that Canada made an epic run and took home the bronze medal. The semifinal match against the U.S., in which the U.S. eked out the win in extra time, is one of the best matches in history. Period.
Road to Rio Canada qualified through the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in which the team finished second.
Outlook It’s possible. Canada advances but will the team be able to displace Germany or Australia for one of the two top spots? Canada has a hard time scoring and it’s hard to say that with Christine Sinclair leading the attack, and it’s a testament to just how good the striker is and has been all of these years. And as has also been the story all of these years, Sinclair needs help. Herdman has brought youth in in this department. Forward Janine Beckie and midfielder Jessie Fleming are but 21 and 18 respectively but can create and cause defenses to think. They’ll need Diana Matheson and Sophie Schmidt to help and rely on Desiree Scott to disrupt opponents’ attacks.
Shelina Zadorsky has been a linchpin for the Washington Spirit and Kadeisha Buchanan is back in a defensive line that also includes Josée Bélanger and West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence. Stephanie Labbé is in net in her first major international tournament and will have to play smart and avoid adventurous forays that could put her team at risk.
If Canada can pick up points from its first match against Australia and take maximum points from Zimbabwe, they might position themselves into a shot at second place in the group, which would keep them out of a quarterfinal matchup with host Brazil. Canada is capable of it but it will take Germany and Australia slipping up for them to sneak into second. Unless Canada finds its scoring prowess from others not named Sinclair and its defense hold, expect the Canadians to bow out against an energized Brazilian team in the quarterfinals.
Alternates Gabrielle Carle, Marie Eve Nault, Kailen Sheridan, Kaylyn Kyle
FIFA Rank: 2nd
Head Coach: Silvia Neid
Olympic History This is Germany’s fifth Olympic appearance. Germany missed out on London 2012 after France and Sweden placed higher at the 2011 World Cup. The Germans have won three bronze medals (2000, 2004, 2008).
Road to Rio Germany qualified as one of UEFA’s top two finishers at the 2015 World Cup.
Outlook Transitioning. Always a part of any conversation about international women’s soccer, the two-time world champions have failed to make it to the podium in the last two World Cups and didn’t qualify for the London 2012 Olympics. Retirements haven’t been kind to Germany either. Goalkeeper Nadine Angerer hung up the gloves after the 2015 World Cup, striker Celia Šašić left the game to start a family, and playmaker and attacking midfielder Nadine Keßler retired to injury, leaving the team without a familiar spine amid an influx of new talent.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Germany is experienced — a nice way to say older – and boasts organization and strength in each line. The back line isn’t the fastest but make up for it in toughness and smarts.
A healthy and engaged Dzenifer Marozsán in the attack is always trouble for any opposing defense, and she’s joined by stalwarts Melanie Behringer, Simone Laudehr, Lena Goessling, and relative newcomers Sara Däbritz, and Melanie Leupolz. The front line of Alexandra Popp and Anja Mittag will bear the responsibility for goals.
It’s experience that will see the Germans out of the group in first place. Maybe. Hedging my bets here. Australia is hungry and building off its development pipeline, a contrast to the situation Germany finds itself in. A first-place finish out of the group will likely set up a quarterfinal match against France in a rematch of one of last year’s World Cup quarterfinals.
To get to the quarterfinals, Germany has to first advance out of the group. The Germans face Zimbabwe in their first match and must keep all eyes on the team in front of them to take the full three points in what could be a tightly-contested group. The matchup against Australia is this group’s marquee matchup and will likely determine who holds the top spot advancing out of it. Silvia Neid, in her last tournament in charge, will need to have her team focused at every turn, and be ready to adjust and adapt on the fly against Australia and Canada.
Almuth Schult (VfL Wolfsburg)
Laura Benkarth (SC Freiburg)
Josephine Henning (Arsenal Ladies)
Saskia Bartusiak (FFC Frankfurt)
Leonie Maier (Bayern Munich)
Annike Krahn (Bayer Leverkusen)
Tabea Kemme (Turbine Potsdam)
Babett Peter (VfL Wolfsburg)
Simone Laudehr (Bayern Munich)
Melanie Behringer (Bayern Munich)
Lena Goessling (VfL Wolfsburg)
Dzenifer Marozsán (Olympique Lyon)
Sara Däbritz (Bayern Munich)
Melanie Leupolz (Bayern Munich)
Alexandra Popp (VfL Wolfsburg)
Anja Mittag (Paris Saint-Germain)
Mandy Islacker (FFC Frankfurt)
Isabel Kerschowski (VfL Wolfsburg)
Alternates Svenja Huth, Lina Magull, Kathrin Hendrich, Lisa Weiß
FIFA Rank: 93rd
Head Coach: Mlauzi Shadreck
Olympic History Zimbabwe is making its first appearance in women’s Olympic soccer tournament.
Road to Rio Qualified via the 2015 CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. It was a chaotic road to Rio, with Zimbabwe’s third-round opponent, Ivory Coast, withdrawing from Olympic qualifying and putting the Mighty Warriors through to face Cameron in the final round of qualifying. The team was able to put the uncertainty surrounding funding and resources behind them to defeat Cameroon in a home-and-away series on away goals.
Outlook This is a tough group to debut in with goal differential playing a part. Zimbabwe beat 2015 World Cup debutantes Cameroon to qualify for Rio 2016 so don’t expect them to roll over. The pressure is off of the Might Warriors in a group in which the other three teams are expected to battle it out to advance. In the attack, look for forward Rudo Neshamba, who scored three goals in Olympic qualifying, including two in decisive wins over Cameroon.