The Olympic Games is a major event on the women’s international football calendar and arguably ranks alongside the World Cup in terms of its prestigiousness.
Unlike the men’s tournament, there are no age restrictions, meaning that it is full of world class players and has seen countless legends of the game compete over the years.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about women’s football at the 2020 Olympics…
Which countries have qualified for the Olympics?
Brazil: Copa America winners
New Zealand: OFC Nations Cup winners
Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden: Top 3 European sides at the World Cup
USA, Canada: CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament
Zambia: CAF Olympic qualifying tournament
Australia, China: AFC Olympic qualifying tournament
Chile: CAF/CONMEBOL playoff
Who are favourites to win the gold medal?
It is really difficult to look beyond the United States capturing gold this summer. The majority of the squad won the World Cup in 2019, they have won 39 of their last 41 games stretching back to March 2019 and are unbeaten since January 2019.
Having historically dominated women’s football at the Olympics, they also have a point to prove after going home without a medal of any colour in 2016 for the first time ever.
If an upset does happen – Sweden pulled one off to knock the U.S. out at the quarter-final stage last time – others will hope to take advantage. Sweden, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Brazil and Australia will all fancy their chances of at least getting a medal of some colour.
What is the competition format?
The 12 competing nations have been divided into three groups (E-G) of four as follows:
Group E: Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile
Group F: China, Brazil, Zambia, Netherlands
Group G: Sweden, United States, Netherlands, New Zealand
Each team plays every other in the group once in typical round robin format, with the top two in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. They will also be joined by the two best third place teams in the knockout stages.
The two eventual finalists will compete for the gold medal, with the runners-up getting silver, while the two losing semi-finalists go into a playoff to see who takes home the bronze medal.
When are games being played?
The first games in the women’s football take place on 21 July, two days before the opening ceremony actually officially declares these Olympics open.
The group stage will then conclude on 27 July, with the knockout bracket to begin three days later and continue until the gold medal match on 6 August.
21 July: Great Britain vs Chile (E), Japan vs Canada (E), China vs Brazil (F), Zambia vs Netherlands (F), Sweden vs USA (G), Australia vs New Zealand (G)
24 July: Chile vs Canada (E), Japan vs Great Britain (E), China vs Zambia (F), Netherlands vs Brazil (F), Sweden vs Australia (G), New Zealand vs USA (G)
27 July: Chile vs Japan (E), Canada vs Great Britain (E), Netherlands vs China (F), Brazil vs Zambia (F), New Zealand vs Sweden (G), USA vs Australia (G)
30 July: Quarter-finals
2 August: Semi-finals
5 August: Bronze medal match
6 August: Gold medal match
Where are games being played?
Although the Olympics are always based in a single city, the football tournament is usually spread slightly further afield across the host nation in order to have access to stadiums.
This year is no exception, with games taking place in the cities of Sapporo, Rifu, Kashima and nearby Saitama and Yokohama in addition to Tokyo itself.
The gold medal match will be played at the new National Stadium in Tokyo, which opened in 2019 and has been rebuilt on the site of the original stadium that hosted the 1964 Olympics. The same venue will also be used for the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics events.
Players to watch out for
Lauren Hemp (Great Britain)
Hemp is the brightest young talent that British football has to offer and has already become a crucial player in a very good Manchester City side. She will turn 21 the day after the gold medal match and this is her first ever major senior international tournament.
At 35, the legend that is Marta is fast running out of time to land a global title. She is a six-time FIFA award winner, has Olympic silver medals from 2004 and 2008 and will be determined to inspire a decent Brazil to something more.
Lieke Martens (Netherlands)
After a sensational 2020/21 club season with Barcelona, winning the Champions League as part of an historic treble, Martens is over the injuries that were holding her back and has returned to something like her 2017 vintage when she inspired Netherlands to the Euro 2017 title.
Friodolina Rolfo (Sweden)
Rolfo has recently sealed a transfer to Barcelona at club level, tasked with making the Catalans even better this coming season. She helped Sweden finish third at the 2019 World Cup and win a silver medal at the last Olympics, and will have a crucial role to play.
Sam Kerr (Australia)
If Australia are to win an Olympic medal for the first time, Sam Kerr will have a huge part to play in it. She scored five goals at the last World Cup, was considered the number one female player in the world by The Guardian in 2019 and has just scored 21 goals for Chelsea to the WSL golden boot.
Kristie Mewis (USA)
Mewis was the only member of the original 18-player USWNT roster for this tournament who wasn’t a World Cup winner in 2019. The Houston Dash midfielder, older sister of Sam, made her international debut in 2013 but has enjoyed an incredible resurgence since 2019.
How can I watch the Olympics?
In the UK, the whole of the Olympics is available on BBC platforms, whether that be channel broadcasts (BBC1, BBC2, BBC4), on the red button, BBC website or iPlayer.
In the United States, Olympic football is available to stream via fuboTV.