Soccer-‘Ready for anybody’, USWNT relish tough Olympic draw

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(Reuters) – Emma Hayes’s first competitive match as U.S. national women’s team coach will be at the Paris Olympics against Morocco or Zambia after the Americans were drawn in a tough Group B with one of the African teams, Germany and Australia.


The English coach will start her job some two months before the four-times gold medallists kick off their campaign in Nice on July 25 before facing the Germans in the same city three days later and Australia in Marseille on July 31.

“I think it’s going to be a very, very strong Olympics … and frankly, all the groups are hard,” caretaker coach Twila Kilgore told reporters on Wednesday.

“It would be wrong to underestimate our opponents but we would be ready for anybody. We take everything head on, we love adversity, we love the pressure and it’s great to have these opponents.”

Morocco and Zambia play off over two legs in early April to decide which of the two teams makes it to France.

The USWNT played Australia twice at the last Olympics in Tokyo three years ago, drawing 0-0 in the group stage and beating the Matildas 4-3 in the bronze medal match.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said he had been resigned to a tough draw given the quality of the 12-team tournament.

“The way to tell the quality of the teams that are joining this competition is to look at the teams that are not in it,” the Swede told reporters.

“Sweden missed out, England missed out, Holland missed out and this is going to be a massive, massive opportunity for women’s football.


“This is going to be a very, very, very exciting group.”

Australia’s run to the last four in Tokyo was their best performance at an Olympics but they reached the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup last year while the USWNT went home in the round of 16 and Germany failed to get out of their group.

Germany, who open their campaign against Australia in Marseille on July 25, won their only Olympic title in Rio in 2016 but were unable to defend it in Tokyo after failing to qualify.

Horst Hrubesch, who took over as Germany coach from Martina Voss-Tecklenburg last November, said he was very happy with the draw.

“With Australia you know what to expect, they certainly play a physical game,” he said in a news release.

“With the USA we also know what’s going on, and with Zambia or Morocco as our third game, that actually suits us quite well.”

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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