Sporting Life's women's football expert Joe Rindl returns to provide his outright preview for the Women's Olympic Football.
3pts USA to win gold at 5/6 (Sky Bet)
1pt e.w. Netherlands to win gold at 6/1 (Bet365 1/3 1,2)
Finally, after a year’s delay, one of the biggest tournaments in women’s football returns as 12 nations battle it out for Olympic glory.
The USA are hoping to avenge their shock quarter-final defeat at Rio 2016, hosts Japan are targeting a deep run into the knockouts and Team GB are third favourites to collect gold. Could football still come home this summer?
The Olympic football tournament is behind only the World Cup as the most prestigious international competition in the women’s game.
Unlike the men’s equivalent there are no age restrictions here. The very best can, and will, compete against each other. When we get to the latter stages, the standard will be terrifyingly high.
The set-up is simple enough. A group stage is followed by a round of knockout matches.
There are three groups made up of four teams, the top two of which progress to the quarter-finals, along with the two best third-place finishers. Then it’s on to the semis and finally the final on August 6.
Team GB may have been absent from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but as England - the vast majority of GB’s players in Japan are English - they boast a superb recent tournament record.
Since 2015 the England national team have reached the semi-finals of two World Cups, one European Championship and have won one and finished runners-up in another SheBelieves Cup, an invitational competition held in the States.
Interim Three Lions boss Hege Riise will manage Team GB, but she's already had to oversee several issues in preseason. A friendly with Zambia was called off after Covid trouble, with the side’s only warm-up game a match behind closed doors with New Zealand.
GB are in a tricky group with 2016 Bronze-medal-winners Canada, hosts Japan and outsiders Chile. But the home nations’ recent tournament expertise are enough to see them at odds-against to win Group E with Sky Bet.
If that were to happen though, they’re highly likely to end up on the same side of the draw as heavy favourites USA...
The United States are the most dominant, and most successful, national team in Women’s football history. The Stars and Stripes have won gold at four of the past six Olympics since their debut at Atlanta 96.
They’ve also lifted the last two World Cups - the most recent at France in 2019 - are the world’s number one ranked team by some margin and the current SheBelieves Cup holders.
Incredibly, they haven’t lost a single game in 2021, their only blip a draw to Sweden in Scandinavia. They’ve played seven games since April and have conceded just one goal.
Vlatko Andonovski’s side hosts an arsenal of talent with an enormous squad depth unmatched by any other nation. Watch out for former Manchester United forward Christen Press who has been involved in 37 goals in her last 37 international appearances.
Even at 5/6 I’d still urge you to back the USA to win outright. At the last Olympics they may have been stunned by Sweden on penalties in the quarter-finals, but history tells us the only other time they missed out on Olympic glory, they followed it up with golds at the next three Games.
USA - 5/6
Netherlands - 4/1
Great Britain - 7/1
Sweden - 9/1
Brazil, Japan - 14/1
Odds correct at 1200 BST (20/07/2021)
Because of the USA’s strength, I’m avoiding Team GB in the outright markets.
I’m tempted by Japan at 14/1, with the hosts likely to finish runners-up behind GB and thus avoiding the trickier half of the draw. But with each-way terms only paying out for the two finalists I still think it will be a step too far for the Asia Cup holders.
There are some good arguments to be made for 2016 silver medallists Sweden at 9/1, who start in the USA’s group and could avoid them in the knockouts by finishing second. And I also fancy Canada at 33/1 who could pip Japan to second in Group E before going one further than their semi-final finish at the last Olympics.
The true value though is with European Champions the Netherlands.
At 6/1 with Bet365 the NETHERLANDS don’t present too much value outright, but the each-way play is what’s appealing to me.
Because of the USA’s short price, everyone else’s odds have been pushed out slightly, meaning the implied probability of Netherlands reaching the final, as per their price of 6/1, is probably lower than it should be, and therefore represents value.
If anybody was guaranteed to reach the final it would be the Netherlands. Their route to the last two, on paper at least, is the easiest with a group containing unfancied China, Brazil and Zambia.
Qualify top and they’ll face the runners-up from the US’ group in the quarters, then onto a semi-final against the winners of the runners-up from their own group and the runners-up from the GB-Japan group.
They could realistically avoid a true big-hitter until the final, at which point, with an each-way play, you’re already in profit.
The Netherlands are a side in fine form. They have won eight of their 11 games since the start of 2020 and their squad hosts a plethora of stars including Arsenal’s record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema and forward Lieke Martens, who won the treble with Barcelona last season.
They are the true value play.
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