Paris Olympics: What to know and who to watch during the women's soccer competition

A roadmap to follow for women's soccer at the Paris Olympics

ByThe Associated Press
June 5, 2024, 11:11 AM

A roadmap to follow for the women's soccer competition during the Paris Olympics:

—Sophia Smith, United States: The former U.S. Soccer Player of the Year and NWSL MVP is heading into the Olympics in peak form. The 23-year-old forward plays for the Portland Thorns in the National Women's Soccer League.

—Aitana Bonmati, Spain: The reigning Ballon d'Or and FIFA Best Player of the Year winner led Spain to a World Cup title last summer. A fixture for Barcelona since 2016, the 26-year-old midfielder also helped lead the Spanish league team to the Champions League title in 2023.

—Linda Caicedo, Colombia: One of the most dynamic young players in the game, Caicedo is just 19. Her story is even more compelling because she overcame cancer at 15. Caicedo scored in a 2-1 victory against Germany at the 2023 Women's World Cup, a goal that was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award for best goal.

—Alexandra Popp, Germany: Popp scored four goals at last year's Women's World Cup, but Germany was surprisingly eliminated from the tournament after the group stage. The 33-year-old forward already has an Olympic gold medal from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

—Barbra Banda, Zambia: Banda was a breakout star of the Tokyo Games, becoming the first player among men and women to have a hat trick in back-to-back games. The Orlando Pride in the NWSL paid a club-record transfer fee for the 24-year-old forward and it paid off: Banda scored 12 goals in her first 12 matches with the team.

—After a disappointing finish in the Women's World Cup last summer, the United States will embark on its first major tournament under new coach Emma Hayes. The former Chelsea coach only has four tuneup matches before the team's Olympic opener against Zambia in Nice on July 25. Hayes will be tasked with managing a talented group of young forwards, including Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson.

—Spain is coming off a World Cup victory while also healing from a series of scandals. Could Spain be the first team to pull off a historic double by following a World Cup win with Olympic gold? Luis Rubiales resigned as Spanish federation president in the fallout after forcibly kissing Jenni Hermoso during the World Cup victory celebration. Spain also fired World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda, who was replaced by former national team player Montserrat Tomé.

—Defending champion Canada is something of a wild card. After winning the gold medal in Tokyo on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw with Sweden, Canada was eliminated from the Women's World Cup after the group stage. Longtime captain Christine Sinclair retired as the game's top career international scorer. Still, the team has plenty of talent, with Jessie Fleming, Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence.

There is a round-robin group stage followed by a knockout round. The women alternate days with the men’s soccer competition at cities across France. The group stage opens July 25. There are three groups of four teams. Group A includes France, Canada, Colombia and New Zealand. Group B includes the United States, Zambia, Germany and Australia. Group C includes Spain, Japan, Nigeria and Brazil. The quarterfinals are Aug. 3 and the semifinals Aug. 6. The bronze medal match will be played in Lyon on Aug. 9, and the gold medal match is Aug. 10 in Paris.

Canada won the gold medal in Tokyo.


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