American football wants to reaffirm dominance, Brazil consider men’s title defense


By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – The U.S. women’s soccer team are determined to make up for their start in the quarter-finals in Rio and reaffirm their dominance at the Tokyo Olympics, while Brazil will aim to repeat as champions of the men’s event after ending his long wait for gold in 2016.

The United States have won four of six gold medals since a women’s tournament was introduced to the Olympic program at the Atlanta Games in 1996 and as current world champions they are clearly back on track.

The squad is heavily based on whoever dominated the 2019 World Cup in France, with some of the biggest names in women’s football returning for what could be their swansong.

Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd are among the forwards selected by Vlatko Andonovski, who succeeded Jill Ellis as head coach and leads the team to their first major tournament.

“We have a balanced squad with a lot of players who can play in multiple positions and that will be invaluable as we try to play six games in 17 days in the heat and humidity,” he said.

“Our coaching staff believes that any player on the roster can play when they have the chance.”

Japan, host country, winner of the World Cup in 2011 and Olympic silver medalist a year later in London, pose a real threat to the Americans, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia and the Canada also hoping to make their presence felt.

Sweden, who beat the United States in the quarter-finals five years ago before losing to Germany in the final, are also back in the medal race.

In the men’s tournament, Brazil ended their Olympic drought at home five years ago, with Neymar providing star quality as an older player and having a real chance to defend his crown in Tokyo.

In addition to an array of talented youngsters, 38-year-old Dani Alves offers experience in defense and Richarlison of Everton a threat in attack.

Germany have chosen seven members of the squad that won the European Under-21 Championship with 33-year-old forward Max Kruse of Union Berlin, who has 14 caps with the full national team.

Spain will also be in contention after naming a squad that includes six members of their current European Championship squad, including goalkeeper Unai Simon, defender Eric Garcia and midfielder Pedri Gonzalez.

France have called on veteran forward Andre-Pierre Gignac and winger Florian Thauvin, both of whom play in Mexico for the Tigers, as major players.

Argentina have only named one major player in goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma, who plays in Spain for Cadiz, while Mexico also have a major goalkeeper in Guillermo Ochoa, a four-season World Cup veteran.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Peter Rutherford)


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