Over the next two weeks, we’ll be providing comprehensive betting previews for every major event ahead of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, which will run from July 23 – August 8. This edition focuses on the women’s soccer competition, which will be held July 21 – August 6 at the National Stadium, Sapporo Dome, Miyagi Stadium, Tokyo Stadium, Saitama Stadium, Ibaraki Kashima Stadium and International Stadium Yokohama.
The U.S. women’s soccer team missed the podium in stunning fashion at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro – and they’re determined to not only avoid a similar fate five years later, but to make history in the process.
The Americans are overwhelming favorites for the 12-team Olympic tournament, which will be played across six cities in Tokyo over a 16-day period. The reigning World Cup champions are vying to become the first team in women’s soccer history to follow up a World Cup triumph with Olympic gold – and with a 45-match unbeaten streak heading into the competition, it hard to envision anyone beating them.
That said, nobody could have predicted that Sweden would knock off the heavily favored Americans in the quarter-finals of the previous Olympic tournament – and with defending-champion Germany not in this year’s field, things could get a little crazy in 2021.
Here’s a look at the Olympic women’s soccer tournament, along with team-by-team previews and my top betting plays (all odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook):
Great Britain vs. Chile
Japan vs. Canada
China vs. Brazil
Zambia vs. Netherlands
Sweden vs. United States
Australia vs. New Zealand
Chile vs. Canada
Japan vs. Great Britain
China vs. Zambia
Netherlands vs. Brazil
Sweden vs. Australia
New Zealand vs. United States
Chile vs. Japan
Canada vs. Great Britain
Brazil vs. Zambia
Netherlands vs. China
New Zealand vs. Sweden
United States vs. Australia
(Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook)
Why Should I Bet On This?
Soccer is the most popular betting sport in the world – so if you don’t, you’re kind of an outcast.
Okay, here’s a better reason: There’s money to be made if you have faith that the Americans can continue to crush the competition. Favorites generally don’t pay out that well, and the U.S. team is no exception here. But these odds are only going to get lower with each U.S. victory, so now is the best time to jump on the American number and enjoy the ride.
5 Things You Absolutely Need to Know
The United States has dominated this tournament since its inception in 1996, winning four of six gold medals over that span; Norway was victorious in 2000 (defeating the Americans 3-2 in extra time to avenge a loss to the U.S. in its tournament opener).
Host teams have medaled just once at the Summer Games, with the U.S. claiming gold in Atlanta in 1996. Brazil came up just short in Rio four years ago, falling 2-1 to Canada in the bronze-medal match.
The Americans are sending a team rich in experience, with all but one of the 18 team members having played in Brazil in 2016. The average age of 30.8 is the highest-ever mark for a U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team.
The U.S. national team has allowed just one goal in 2021. That’s … quite good. The Americans have outscored their opponents by a combined 37-1 total, with the lone goal coming courtesy new arch-rival Sweden (fist shake!) back on April 10.
The Over 2.5 (in regulation time) is 4-2 in six all-time gold medal matches, while the Under is 5-1 in the six bronze-medal encounters.
Great Britain (+650)
Strengths: Led by FIFA Best Player of 2020 Lucy Bronze, this team has a great deal of quality depth and should have little trouble advancing out of this group if it can capitalize on the wealth of high-level experience this roster has playing in one of the top domestic women’s leagues on the planet.
Weaknesses: They might see each other a lot as opponents on the pitch, but Great Britain’s roster has had dangerously little time to jell – and the Olympic tourney is so condensed that any issues with cohesion could leave this team on the outside looking in come medal time. The team is also lacking the kind of quality finisher that other tournament favorites seem to have in abundance.
Betting outlook: This is the most balanced group of all – and that doesn’t bode well for a team that has seen far less game experience as a roster than most, if not all, of its most formidable competitors. I’m taking a pass here.
Strengths: This team has been steamrolling the competition, racking up 22 goals without conceding any during a three-game friendly stretch against Paraguay, Panama and Ukraine before handing Mexico a 5-1 drubbing in the opener of the MS&AD Cup. Japan is one of the speedier teams in the entire tournament, and those wheels will need to be respected by even the best defenses.
Weaknesses: The Japanese side disappointed in its last major competition, falling to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 at the 2019 World Cup. The team has also lost its last three games against what I would consider to be “suitable competition”, getting outscored 7-2 by England, Spain and the United States.
Betting outlook: Don’t sleep on this team – the home-field advantage will be enormous, and this club has enough speed and skill to make life miserable for any team in the tournament. Definitely worth a look as a live underdog.
Strengths: She might be 38, but Christine Sinclair is still one of the best players in the world – and she’ll have help from a Canadian defense that comes in playing like one of the most best in the world, having surrendered just three goals in seven matches this year.
Weaknesses: Goal scoring wasn’t a problem with Sinclair in her prime, but she’s no longer there – and this team might struggle to convert against other formidable defensive teams, having produced just four goals in four games at the 2019 World Cup while getting blanked four times already in 2021.
Betting outlook: This number is really tempting if you’re betting on the Canadian team that has won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals – but this team ain’t it. Sinclair is sensational, but she can’t do it all herself. And I don’t have enough confidence in the rest of the Canadian attack.
Strengths: A hearty effort led to a second-place showing at the CONMEBOL Tournament – and the first Olympic berth in the history of the nation. The Chilean side is one of the more responsible defensive clubs in the tournament, coming off an impressive scoreless draw with defending Olympic champion Germany.
Weaknesses: A major lack of international experience (only seven players have 50+ caps) and goal-scoring (just two have scored more than eight goals in international competition) put Chile at a major disadvantage – especially in a group with three teams capable of reaching the medal round.
Betting outlook: You don’t need a Magic 8 ball to tell you: Outcome, not so good.
Strengths: It’s hard to believe a team this talented is getting its first taste of Olympic action – and after winning the most recent European Women’s Championship and finishing second at the 2019 World Cup, the Dutch have much loftier aspirations than most first-timers. Led by Arsenal goal machine Vivianne Miedema, the Netherlands boast one of the most impressive offenses in the tournament and have a capable back end led by veteran Anouk Dekker.
Weaknesses: Away losses in friendlies to Spain and Italy are certainly cause for concern, as is a 2-0 setback to the visiting United States last November. A lack of consistency has been a trademark of the Dutch women’s team since that World Cup showing, and similar struggles in Tokyo could spell disaster.
Betting outlook: The best team in the easiest of the three groups, I expect the Dutch to work out any kinks over the first few games of the tournament and hit their stride to set up a gold-medal showdown with the Americans. And if they get that far … anything can happen.
Strengths: Brazil is synonymous with soccer dominance on the men’s side, but the women’s Olympic entry is also a force. Led by Marta and her 109 goals in 157 international caps, the Brazilians play a wonderfully precise game and move the ball better than just about any team in the tournament. They’ve lost just one of their seven games this year, and have allowed just three goals in that span.
Weaknesses: Marta is 36. Fellow midfield star Formiga is 43 (!). When your top two players have this many miles on them, it’s hard to envision a run to a gold medal. Further, the decision to leave Cristiane off the roster is a puzzling one. She had struggled for much of 2021, but is still one of the most successful players in Brazilian soccer history with 96 goals in 150 caps. Her offense will be missed dearly.
Betting outlook: The Brazilians have the benefit of playing in a group with Zambia and China, but I don’t see them getting past any of the top three teams in the tournament. Look for another missed podium in Tokyo.
Strengths: The Zambians have one of the youngest rosters in the tournament, and that should work to their benefit from a fitness perspective. They completed one of the most stunning runs in African soccer history with an away goals win over Cameroon in the two-leg CAF final, showing some terrific offensive prowess en route to their first Olympic appearance.
Weaknesses: It’s clear the Copper Queens played over their head at the qualifying tournament: They’ve won just two of their five matches since November 2020 and have had to cancel three others due to COVID-19 concerns. The lack of high-level game experience, coupled with struggles at both ends of the pitch, make it incredibly difficult to trust this team to even compete against the Netherlands or Brazil.
Betting outlook: Zambia reaching the Olympics is an incredible story, but this is where things take a turn. Stay far away from this outright play.
Strengths: The Chinese team channeled the spirit of its successful early-2000s teams to pull off an upset win over South Korea in AFC Olympic qualifying and book a return trip to the Olympics. This roster might not mirror that of the 1996 Olympic runner-up, but there’s offensive promise here in the form of forward Wang Shanshan (52 goals in 136 caps) and midfielder Wang Shuang (29 goals in 106 appearances).
Weaknesses: The step up in competition in Tokyo is going to be positively jarring for a Chinese squad that has played just two meaningful international matches since February 2020. And beyond Shanshan and Shuang, there isn’t much to be optimistic about at either end of the pitch.
Betting outlook: Bleak. Quite bleak.
United States (-134)
Strengths: Where to start? Seventeen players from the 2019 World Cup triumph will suit up in Tokyo – and it’s a who’s-who of women’s soccer talent, led by Carli Lloyd (126 goals in 310 appearances), Alex Morgan (110 goals in 180 caps) and Megan Rapinoe (59 goals in 179 international matches). This is one of the deepest, most talented teams the U.S. has ever boasted in any competition.
Weaknesses: None. Seriously. The talent and skill are there, and motivation will not be a factor following that 2016 flame-out.
Betting outlook: The payout might not land you a 40-foot yacht, but this is one of the safest outright bets of any Olympic team sport.
Strengths: The fifth-ranked Swedes might not have the same level of international experience as their American counterparts, but they continue to look sneaky dangerous with six wins and two draws over their last eight matches dating back to late October. That includes a 1-1 draw with the powerhouse U.S. side, one of the highlights of head coach Peter Gerhardsson’s impressive 11-2-2 record at the helm.
Weaknesses: With just five players boasting 80+ caps, a lack of big-game experience might come into play here; how Sweden fares might ultimately come down to how they respond to their group match against the U.S., a result that will almost certainly go in the Americans’ favor. And with the Swedish forward combining for just 65 goals in international competition, the 2016 upset queens might not have the firepower to pull off a repeat.
Betting outlook: Sweden is a terrific team, but of any club in the tournament expected to get the Americans’ best, this is the one. I’m passing.
Strengths: The Matildas waltz into the Olympics with a terrific blend of youth and experience, with five players 21 or younger and six others that rank inside the top-10 all-time in caps for their country. Australia is ranked ninth in the world and could make some noise: They defeated powerhouse Brazil 3-2 at the 2019 World Cup and fought Sweden to a scoreless draw in their previous international match.
Weaknesses: Aside from being in a challenging group, the Matildas have looked mostly dreadful so far in 2021, having dropped three straight matches prior to that inspired draw with Sweden. New head coach Tony Gustavsson – a Swede, of course – has struggled to find the right player mix in his four games at the helm, and needing to secure points against either the United States or Sweden could prove to be an incredibly tall task.
Betting outlook: The Aussies might be at the back end of the top tier of betting options, but I don’t see a path to a medal here.
New Zealand (+15000)
Strengths: The Football Ferns are one of the more experienced teams in the tournament, with six players at 95+ caps with the club. New Zealand is participating in its third consecutive Olympic tournament and reached the quarter-finals in London in 2012, where it dropped a 2-0 decision to the United States. The Kiwis have also won four straight OFC Women’s Nations Cup titles, scoring 154 goals in 16 matches while yielding just one over that span.
Weaknesses: Not only has New Zealand not faced legitimate competition this season, it hasn’t faced anyone at all: the club hasn’t played an international match since March 2020, which will make it more than 16 months between games when it kicks off its Olympic schedule. It also finished a disappointing 20th in the previous World Cup, failing to win a game while scoring just once.
Betting outlook: It would take a miracle for New Zealand to even escape this group.
United States (-134)
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