US women drawn with France, Colombia, North Korea

With tension escalating between their governments, the United

States and North Korea were drawn Tuesday into the same first-round

group for this summer’s Olympic women’s soccer tournament.

The Americans will play in Group G, which includes France,

Colombia and the isolated Asian nation, an opponent four times at

the Women’s World Cup but never at the Olympics.

”A lot of the time we are at the center of some controversy on

the political stage, but we have to give them the respect they

deserve,” Tim Ryder, general manager of the U.S. women’s team,

told The Associated Press. ”We try to keep (away) the things that

don’t pertain to us on the football field and concentrate on the

football aspect.”

The Americans open the group stage against the French on July 25

at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, where the U.S. will also play

Colombia three days later. The Americans complete the first round

against North Korea on July 31 at Old Trafford in Manchester.

”We will start with an excellent opponent that we faced in the

World Cup and that is a good thing,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said.

”Once again, we will be facing teams with different playing styles

and that is a challenge our team enjoys. When the draw happens, it

energizes our players and brings even more of a focus to our team.

We also have the chance to start scouting and preparing for what

will be an entertaining and extremely competitive first

round.”

If the Americans win their group, they would advance to a

quarterfinal at Newcastle on Aug. 3 against the third-place team

from Group E or F, and then could reach a semifinal at Old Trafford

on Aug. 6.

If they finish second in Group G, their quarterfinal would be

against he Group F winner in Glasgow, and they would be on a track

to play a semifinal at London’s Wembley Stadium. The final is at

Wembley on Aug. 9.

A third-place finish in the group could lead to a quarterfinal

against the Group E winner at Coventry, England.

Group E of the 12-team tournament includes Brazil, host Britain,

Cameroon and New Zealand, and Group F has Canada, Japan, South

Africa and Sweden.

The U.S., which lost to Japan in the final of last year’s

Women’s World Cup, won the gold medal in 1996, 2004 and 2008.

The draw for the men’s tournament has Britain, Senegal, the

United Arab Emirates and Uruguay in Group A; Gabon, Mexico, South

Korea and Switzerland in Group B; Belarus, Brazil, Egypt and New

Zealand in Group C; and Honduras, Japan, Morocco and Spain in Group

D.

Men’s Olympic soccer is limited to under-23 teams, with three

overage players allowed on each team. Britain, as host, is fielding

a team that can include players from England, Scotland, Wales and

Northern Ireland. David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy is among

the players under consideration for Britain’s team.

The U.S. failed to qualify for the men’s tournament for only the

second time since 1976.