Football raises the Olympic curtain
Football kicks off the 2000 Olympic Games on Wednesday with half a dozenmatches that promise to set the tone for the two weeks to come.
The two tournaments contain plenty of contenders for the coveted medals– not least the defending women’s champions from the United States andthe men’s champions from Nigeria – but no really clear favourites.
The main focus on Wednesday will be in Melbourne, where Sweden meetBrazil in the opening women’s match before the Australian defend theirnation’s honour against Italy, with a capacity crowd of over 90,000 inthe venerable Melbourne Cricket Ground, specially adapted for the Games.
The home country’s women, meanwhile – popularly known as the Matildas –face Germany in their opener in Canberra before the US play the CzechRepublic on the same newly-laid turf at Bruce Stadium in the nation’scapital.
Brisbane and Adelaide stage one game each, Cameroon meeting Kuwait atanother cricket mecca, the Gabba, in the Queensland metropolis whileNigeria begin their defence campaign against the dark horses fromHonduras in Adelaide’s renovated Hindmarsh Stadium.
Among the favourites who start their programme on Thursday are Brazil,with a strong squad led by star striker Ronaldinho, the reigning FIFAWorld Youth Champions from Spain, and the Asian challengers from Koreaand Japan, the latter currently enjoying an extended unbeaten run. TheUS women, reigning World as well as Olympic Champions, kick off againsteternal rivals Norway in a tournament that promises to be every bit ashard-fought as the men’s.
Over a million tickets have already been sold for the football events ofSydney 2000, and with twelve matches due to be played before the Gamesofficially open on Friday, football will once again grab a major shareof the Olympic spotlight.