By David Owen
April 17 – The schedule for the men’s and women’s Olympic football tournaments next year in Japan has been published, with the sport getting up and running as usual well before the official opening ceremony for the Games.
Matches in the women’s competition will begin on July 22, with the men kicking off a day later. The very first action will be seen in the north of the country in the Sapporo Dome, where England once clashed with Argentina in a World Cup match decided by a David Beckham penalty.
The city of Sapporo is viewed as a possible future Winter Olympic host.
Matches will continue right the way through until the penultimate evening of the Games on August 8, when the men’s final will get under way at 8.30pm local time in Yokohama. The men’s bronze medal match will be played the previous night in Saitama, kicking off at 8pm. This in turn follows semi-finals on August 4.
The brand new Olympic stadium in Tokyo has been reserved for the women’s final on August 7, starting at 11am. The women’s bronze medal match will take place at Ibaraki Kashima stadium on August 6, beginning at 5pm, with semi-final day on August 3.
The host nation will harbour hopes of securing medals in both tournaments. This is even though at the last Summer Olympics in 2016 in Brazil, the men failed to reach the quarter-finals while the women – winners of the 2011 World Cup and beaten finalists in 2015 – did not qualify.
Japan has won two Olympic medals in football to date, but never gold. The men took bronze in Mexico 51 years ago in 1968, while the women won silver behind the United States in London in 2012.
The men’s Olympic tournament is for the under-23 age group, but with three over-age players per squad permitted.
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