The Southland Times
Kiwi teams hope for luck of the draw in Tokyo
Showdowns with some of world football’s superpowers are on the cards for the Football Ferns and OlyWhites at the Tokyo Olympics in July.
New Zealand qualified for both Olympic football tournaments for only the third time and could face the United States or the Netherlands, the incumbent World Cup finalists, in the women’s event, and European superpowers France, Germany or Spain in the men’s event.
Who exactly the two teams will face will be revealed tonight.
Kiwi Sarai Bareman, Fifa’s chief women’s football officer, will oversee the men’s draw, while former All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen will also have a part to play in proceedings.
The 12 teams in the women’s tournament have been assigned to four pots according to their Fifa rankings, with Japan automatically moving to the head of the pack as hosts.
That has left the 10th-ranked Ferns in pot four, alongside Chile and Zambia, the only two teams in the tournament they would be favoured to beat – and the only teams they can’t draw. They will
instead face one of Japan, the US, or Netherlands from pot one; one of Sweden, Great Britain or Brazil from pot two; and one of Canada, Australia or China from pot three.
The OlyWhites, as New Zealand’s national men’s under-23 team are known, are back at the Olympics for the first time since 2012 – and will be an under-24 team this time around, as a result of the pandemic and the oneyear delay to the Games.
While Japan have been given the top seed, the other 15 qualified teams have been ranked according to their performances in the past five Olympics, with recent results carrying more weight.
Thanks to the draws they picked up in Beijing in 2008 and
London in 2012, the OlyWhites have ended up in pot three, ahead of European giants France and their trans-Tasman rivals Australia, who are both in pot four.
Taking Fifa’s general principle regarding teams from the same confederation into account, there will effectively be two possible scenarios for the OlyWhites.
The first will group them with one of Japan or South Korea from pot one; one of Honduras or Mexico from pot two; and one of France or Romania from pot four.
The second will group them with one of Argentina or Brazil from pot one; Germany or Spain from pot two; and one of Australia or Saudi Arabia from pot four.