Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Time to break out the oxygen masks

Yeah, I know it's been quiet around here lately. But frankly, there hasn't been much that I've felt like writing about. I'm choosing to ignore Toronto FC's terrible run of form, and the transfer window is no more exciting than it was a month ago, which is to say, not at all.

But finally, we have some games that actually matter. The Olympic football tournament has kicked off, with the first round of women's games being played this morning (or this evening, if you're in Beijing, which I sadly am not). Yes, the opening ceremony isn't until Friday, but the football has started already for some unknown reason.

The Canadian women won their first game, beating Argentina 2-1 with goals from Candace Chapman and Kara Lang, so they're off to a good start. They're still not one of the favourites for the tournament -- Germany, Norway, the USA and Brazil are the big names, just like they were at the World Cup last year -- but I'd say they have an outside chance. At the very least, they should be looking to improve on their World Cup showing, when they narrowly failed to get out of their group.

Other than Argentina, Canada is up against Sweden and hosts China in Group E (the men's side is Groups A to D). Sweden also won their opening game 2-1 against China. In Group F, Brazil and Germany played out a scoreless draw, while North Korea beat Nigeria 1-0. And in Group G, the Abby Wambach-less USA went down 1-0 to Norway, and Japan drew 2-2 with New Zealand. The top two teams from each group will move on to the quarter-finals starting August 15, along with the two best third-place finishers; the final is on August 21.

I don't know how much of the tournament I'll actually be able to watch, seeing as most of the games seem to be scheduled at some ungodly hour in the morning. Plus most of them aren't even being shown on TV. But the CBC is streaming everything live on their website; there's a full schedule here. Also, Kickster is doing profiles of all the women's teams.

As for the men's side, things have been complicated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport's ruling that clubs are not legally obliged to release their players for the Olympics, since it's not part of the official FIFA calendar. This means that players like Lionel Messi, for example, could end up being dragged back to Europe -- although I kind of expect the clubs to back down this time, just because it's going to make them look bad if they don't. Wouldn't play too well with Barca's goody-goody image.

Anyway, the first round of men's games is tomorrow, with 16 teams competing for medals:

Group A: Ivory Coast, Argentina, Australia, Serbia
Group B: Netherlands, Nigeria, Japan, USA
Group C: China, New Zealand, Brazil, Belgium
Group D: South Korea, Cameron, Honduras, Italy

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