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Olympics: France vs. US to kick off men’s soccer tournament

PARIS: Hosts France will play the US to kick off the men’s soccer tournament at the Paris 2024 Olympics after the two teams were drawn together on Wednesday.

The game will be played in Marseille on July 24, two days before the opening ceremony in Paris. New Zealand and the winner of a playoff between Guinea and the fourth-placed team in the Asian qualifying competition complete Group A.

Argentina, who won the title in 2004 and 2008, were drawn with Morocco, Ukraine and a yet-to-be-determined Asian qualifier in Group B.

Two-times defending champions Brazil will not take part in the men’s tournament after failing to qualify.

“The Olympics… my dad would wake me up at night to watch Carl Lewis… I cried when we did not qualify, even if I had won the World Cup before,” France’s 1998 World Cup winner Thierry Henry, now coach of the Under-23 team who will play the tournament, said at the draw ceremony.

“We haven’t won it in 40 years. It’s not easy, but we will try everything.”

France won the title in 1984 in Los Angeles.

Henry’s team have a friendly against the US scheduled on Monday.

“We didn’t have a preference (for the draw), the first goal is to get through the group phase and see what happens on the other side,” Henry added.

US head coach Marko Mitrovic told reporters that he sees France as just another opponent in the group but is expecting a sizzling atmosphere.

“When you play against the host team it is a little bit of a different experience because we are playing first game against them, it’s in Marseille, I assume it will be a sold-out stadium with 70,000 people.

“But it is what it is. We see them as all other teams in our group, as our opponents, and we will try to do our best.”

In the women’s competition, world champions Spain, who will play at the Olympics for the first time, were drawn with Japan, Brazil and a yet-to-be-determined African qualifier.

Holders Canada will play hosts France, Colombia and New Zealand in Group A.

The US, who are four times winners, are in Group B with Germany, Australia and an African qualifier.

“It’s going to be a very tough Olympics,” US interim head coach Twila Kilgore told reporters on a call.

“When you think that some of the top ranked teams in the world not even getting to participate in the Olympics, I think that says volumes.

“All the groups are hard and it would be wrong to underestimate anybody.”

The women’s final will conclude the soccer tournaments on Aug. 10 at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

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