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Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

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Eighth-ranked Canada got a peek Friday at its possible road at the Olympic women's soccer tournament this summer.

Using the April rankings, FIFA released the makeup of the pots to be used in next Wednesday's draw to determine the three groups of four for the women's field in Tokyo.

Pot 1 contains host Japan (ranked No. 11), the U.S. (No. 1), and the Netherlands (No. 3) while Pot 2 is made up of Sweden (No. 5), Britain (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are ranked separately by FIFA) and Brazil (No. 7).

Canada is in Pot 3 along with Australia (No. 9) and China (No. 14). Pot 4 consists of New Zealand (No. 22), Chile (No. 37) and Zambia (No. 104).

Britain qualified via England’s performance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup — the three best-placed European teams earned Olympic berths — so was allocated to a pot based on England’s position (No. 6) in the rankings.

FIFA says the "general principle" for the tournament draw is to ensure that no group has more than one team from the same confederation, so Canada should avoid the Americans to start.

That would also suggest that Canada will end up in a group with Japan, given the host country is a member of the Asian Football Confederation as are Australia and China — Canada's companions in Pot 3.

And if the Netherlands get Brazil from Pot 2, given the other two sides (Sweden and Britain) are also from Europe, that would leave Canada with one of those two European representatives.

FIFA declined the confirm those permutations, saying "we will not speculate on the draws."

Sweden knocked the Canadians out of the 2019 World Cup in France in the round of 16. Canada beat Britain 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Games in London, where Canada won bronze — as it did four years later in Rio.

Getting Japan, the lowest-ranked team in Pot 1, is no guarantee of success given Canada is 4-7-3 against the Japanese, losing 4-0 last time out in October 2019.

Former Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen will help with the draw in Zurich. The former defender captained New Zealand at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Former U.S. international Lindsay Tarpley, who won gold in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008) will also assist.

Canada (ranked 10th at the time) was drawn in a group with Germany (No. 2), Australia (No. 5) and Zimbabwe (No. 95) at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Canadian women upset Germany to top the group with three wins. They defeated France 1-0 in the quarterfinals before falling 2-0 to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals. Canada then downed Brazil 2-1 for the bronze.

Canada remained at No. 8 in the FIFA rankings released Friday. But this time it does not have company there with Brazil moving up one place to No. 7 at the expense of Australia, which fell two spots to No. 9.

The U.S. and Germany remained 1-2 with the Netherlands leapfrogging France into No. 3.

The rest of the top 10 has France, Sweden, England, Brazil, Canada, Australia and North Korea

Also next week, the 16 men's sides in Tokyo will be drawn into four groups of four.

Pot 1: Japan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea.

Pot 2: Mexico, Germany, Honduras, Spain.

Pot 3: Egypt, New Zealand, Ivory Coast, South Africa. 

Pot 4: Australia, Saudi Arabia, France, Romania,

The Olympic soccer tournament runs July 21 to Aug. 7 in Tokyo, Sapporo, Miyagi, Kashima, Saitama and Yokohama.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press