08/02/2016 1:12 PM
2016 RIO OLYMPICS PREVIEW
FLASH SEND FOUR PLAYERS TO THE OLYMPIC GAMES
BUFFALO, NY (August 2, 2016) --- The 2016 Olympic Games begin tomorrow, August 3rd, and the Western New York Flash have four players competing.
To get you prepared, here’s a quick preview:
There are twelve nations competing in this summer’s tournament, separated into three different groups. The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout rounds, which will begin on August 12th.
All twelve teams in this summer's tournament will play their first group stage match on August 3rd, a full two days before the Opening Ceremony in Rio.
The gold medal match will be held at the historic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 19th. The Maracanã Stadium is also where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will be held.
Four WNY players will be representing their countries at the highest level for these Olympic Games. Sabrina D’Angelo (CAN), Abby Erceg (NZL), Alanna Kennedy (AUS) and Samantha Mewis (USA) have all traveled with their teams to Rio.
For Mewis and the United States squad, the expectations are high and nearly everybody is expecting the squad to medal. If the team does not get out of Group G, a group where the Americans have fared a combined 32-2-3 against the other three sides, there may be mayhem. However, the team has brought in new faces from last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup gold medal team, and many believe that head coach Jill Ellis has found a way to make that dominant team even stronger. Mewis was named an alternate for the United States, but may be called upon if there is an injury or if someone returns home.
Erceg is the captain of New Zealand, and has been for quite some time. This New Zealand squad is sitting at 17th in the world rankings, and will hope to make some noise in the tournament this summer. Of course, it may be a challenge to get out of the group as the United States (#1) and France (#3) are the favorites to escape Group G. The Football Ferns are fearless, however, and Erceg brings plenty of experience to the squad. Her 123 caps are most in New Zealand history and she is one of three Ferns who have competed in the previous two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008 and London 2012).
Kennedy and Australia will also be hoping to make a splash in the Olympic tournament, as the Matildas are expected to be the second team to come out of Group F. The Aussies are paired with Germany (#2), Canada (#10), and Zimbabwe (#93). The Germans, highlighted by their stringent defense and wealth of experience, is the favorite to come out of the group while Zimbabwe is the long shot of the entire tournament, as they hold almost no chance of advancing to the knockout rounds. The 21-year old Kennedy will be leading the Australian defense as they hope to hold off the high-powered Canadian attack and the surgical German offense in order to escape Group F.
Canada, meanwhile, may have the toughest road to the knockout rounds of the four squads with Flash players. Germany and Australia are no easy task, and the Canadians will need to find ways to score and will need their defense to hold up. D’Angelo, a goalkeeper, will not likely see much playing time as she is still recovering from a wrist injury. With veteran keeper Erin McLeod injured, the Washington Spirit’s Stephanie Labbe will be taking over in goal for the Canadians.
In this year’s Olympic Games, there is almost no question that the staked United States squad is the favorite.
A win in Rio would be the fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal for the Americans, and it would make the United States the first nation to win the World Cup and the Olympic gold in back-to-back years.
Outside of the favored American side, the race is wide open. The host nation, Brazil, are the favorites to come out of Group E and could make a convincing case with former Flash star Marta leading the attack.
Australia is considered to be a team on the rise, while Germany has had rough luck lately but remains ranked second and is a two-time world champion. France, a team anchored by players from one of the world’s best club teams - Olympique Lyon - often underperforms in large tournaments but is hoping to escape that narrative in Rio.
Looking past those four, nations like New Zealand, Colombia, and Canada should also contend for a medal. Canada gave the Americans a run for their money in London and will likely look to do much of the same, led by former Flash star and prolific scorer Christine Sinclair. New Zealand will be led by their experienced core as they make a run at the podium, and Colombia will likely make waves in the knockout rounds if they can escape Group G.
D’Angelo and Team Canada will kick off group play as they take on the Matildas and Kennedy at 2:00 p.m. ET tomorrow on NBCSN. Mewis and the Americans will meet Erceg and the Football Ferns at 6:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN tomorrow evening.
The Flash will return to action when they host the Houston Dash at Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY, for the annual Pink Game. The match is set to kick off at 7:00 p.m. ET. Tickets for the match are available at wnyflash.com/tickets.