Paris 2024 Olympics Women’s Football Primer: Tournament favourites, players to watch & everything you need to know

In late July and early August the attention of the sporting world will be on the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Every four years, one of the marquee events at the Olympics is the world’s most popular sport, football, and this year’s tournament will be no different amidst a busy summer on the international football calendar. 

While the men’s Olympic tournament is primarily made up of under-23 players, with three overage players allowed, the women’s tournament has no such restrictions, allowing many of the best players in the world to take part. 

A lot of attention will be on Canada, as they look to defend their gold medal against the likes of Women’s World Cup winners Spain, four-time Olympic champions and their bitter rivals the United States, and Copa América Femenina winners Brazil, among others.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the women’s Olympic football tournament, from gold medal favourites to players to watch, tournament history to kickoff times, and more.

Canada stand on the podium with their Olympic gold medals at Tokyo 2020 (Photo: Canada Soccer by Mexsport)

About The Hosts

Paris will become the second city (after London, England) to host the Olympic Games three times this summer, when the French capital welcomes the world in July and August.

France has a recent history in hosting major international football tournaments, with the 2019 Women’s World Cup taking place across nine stadiums in the country just five years ago, and the men’s European Championship being hosted in France in 2016. Several of those stadiums will be used again for the Olympics, including Paris’s Parc des Princes, which will host the gold medal match at the Olympics.

Parc des Princes in Paris, where the gold medal match will be played. (Photo: Tim L. Productions)

France’s women’s national team, nicknamed “Les Bleues” (The Blues), has been on an upwards trajectory in recent years, but is still looking for its first major title. They have qualified for two Olympic Games, London 2012 and Rio 2016, where they played, and lost, to Canada both times – including in the 2012 bronze medal match.

They reached the quarter-finals at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which they have done three times in a row, falling short of equaling their best result – a fourth-place finish in 2011. They finished third at the 2022 UEFA Women’s Championship, and in February finished second to World Cup winners Spain in the 2024 UEFA Women’s Nations League. 

They automatically qualified for Paris 2024 as hosts, where they have been drawn into Group A with Colombia, Canada, and New Zealand.

France and Canada line up before an international friendly in Le Mans in 2023. (Photo: Canada Soccer by Mélanie Antoine)

Eugénie Le Sommer is France’s all-time record goalscorer, and is eight games away from tying the appearances record as well – finding the back of the net 90 times in 190 matches thus far. The current national team captain is Wendie Renard, Le Sommer’s long-time Olympique Lyonnais teammate. 

One of France’s biggest stars is Paris Saint-Germain forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who has scored an impressive 27 goals in 35 national team appearances at the senior level. 

France’s men’s national team is one of the most successful in the world as well, winning the 1998 and 2018 World Cups, and finishing second at the 2022 World Cup and 2016 European Championship. They also won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Tournament History

Paris 2024 will be the eighth edition of the Olympic Games to include a women’s football tournament since first being introduced at Atlanta 1996. 

The United States is the most successful nation in this event, winning the gold medal on four previous occasions — in 1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012. The Americans also picked up a silver medal in 2000 and a bronze three years ago in Tokyo. 

Norway (Sydney 2000), Germany (Rio 2016) and Canada (Tokyo 2020) are the other teams to capture gold medals in women’s football. Germany also picked up bronzes in 2000, 2004, and 2008, Canada finished third in 2012 and 2016, and Norway finished third in 1996. Four teams have reached the podium without ever winning gold – Brazil (silver in 2004 and 2008), Sweden (silver in 2016 and 2020), Japan (silver in 2012) and China (silver in 1996).

Canada is the only team to reach the podium in each of the previous three editions of the tournaments, and will be playing in their fifth Olympic Games in Paris. The Swedish team Canada beat for the gold medal at Tokyo 2020 failed to qualify for the Olympics this year for the first time ever. 

Canada celebrate their penalty shootout win over Brazil at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Photo: Canada Soccer by Daniela Porcelli)

Who has qualified? Who will Canada play and when?

Needing to be condensed into two weeks, the Olympics is a shorter tournament than the World Cup and therefore is limited to just 12 teams. Qualifying is very competitive, and some of the biggest teams in the world aren’t going to Paris this summer – including top ten-ranked England (who would be part of Team Great Britain if it had qualified), Sweden and the Netherlands, among others.

France qualified automatically as hosts, and were automatically sorted into Group A. The United States qualified through the 2022 Concacaf W Championship, while Canada – who finished second at that tournament – had to play, and then beat, third-place Jamaica in a two-legged Concacaf playoff for the second spot last September.

Colombia and Brazil qualified for the Olympics after being the two finalists at the 2022 Copa América Femenina. New Zealand qualified after winning the Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February, before neighbours Australia, and Japan, booked their tickets to Paris at the Asian qualifying event. 

Spain and Germany qualified as the winners and third-place teams respectively at the 2024 UEFA Women’s Nations League Finals in February. France was the runner-up at that event, meaning the third-place Germans moved up into that second qualifying spot. 

The African qualifying tournament, which culminated in April, saw Nigeria and Zambia claim the last two spots.

The group stage draw was conducted on March 20 at the Paris 2024 organizing committee’s headquarters in Saint-Denis, France. Canada is in Group A with the hosts France, Colombia, and New Zealand. 

Canada will play New Zealand at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Étienne on July 25, the day before the official Olympic opening ceremony on the 26th. They will then play France in Saint-Étienne on July 28, and Colombia at Stade de Nice on July 31.

Should they finish in the top two in Group A, or as one of the two best third-place finishers, Canada will play a quarter-final on August 3 in either Lyon or Marseille.

Who are the favourites to win it all?

Anything can happen in international football, especially in a 12-team tournament, but naturally there are some early favourites to reach the top of the podium in Paris this summer.

It’s hard to look past recent Women’s World Cup and UEFA Women’s Nations League winners Spain, just a year after they reached the pinnacle of the sport in Australia and New Zealand. This is the first time La Roja has qualified for the women’s football tournament at the Olympic Games, and they certainly go in as a contender to win it all.

Canada enter the tournament as the defending champions. Over the past dozen years they’ve prided themselves on their Olympic performances, picking up bronze medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016, before a famous win at Tokyo 2020 in the most recent edition of the tournament. Les Rouges are the only team to medal at each of the past three Olympics, and will back themselves to potentially make a deep run again in 2024. 

Their neighbours to the south, the United States, can never be ruled out either. As the most successful national team in Olympic history, they’ll want to get back to winning ways after missing the podium in Rio and finishing third in Tokyo, especially with incoming head coach Emma Hayes set to coach her first major international tournament. 

Spain lift the 2023 Women’s World Cup. (Photo: FIFA)

The hosts France are a dark horse pick to potentially reach the podium, while long-time women’s football powerhouses Japan, Brazil and Germany are always in contention as well. Australia will feel the absence of superstar attacker Sam Kerr but also have a strong group, Colombia are a team on the rise, and New Zealand is beginning to establish itself on the world stage after picking up their first win at a World Cup tournament on home soil last summer. 

No African team has ever won a medal in the women’s Olympic tournament, but three of the four African teams (including Nigeria, with Zambia the outlier) reached the knockout stage at last summer’s World Cup, and can never be ruled out. 

As the saying goes, however: matches aren’t played on paper, and every team competing has an opportunity to leave France in August with medals around their necks.

Who are some players to keep an eye on?

Few people would debate you if you told them that Spanish midfielder Aitana Bonmatí is the best player in the world at the moment, with the Barcelona star picking up the Golden Ball at last summer’s Women’s World Cup, as well as the 2023 Ballon d’Or Féminin. She’ll be a crucial part of Spain’s team this summer, along with Ballon d’Or third-place finisher Salma Paralluelo and World Cup Golden Ball runner up Jenni Hermoso. Alexia Putellas is also one of the biggest stars in world football, and could also be a key part of the Spain team if they are to go on a deep run in the tournament. 

One of the standout players at Tokyo 2020 was Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming, who has recently taken the captain’s armband for her country after the retirement of Christine Sinclair. Fleming scored the winning goal from the penalty spot in the semifinal at Tokyo 2020, before adding another penalty goal against Sweden in the final before Canada eventually won in a shootout. She will be key to any success Canada has, as will her former Chelsea teammates Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, and top goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, among others.

Jessie Fleming scores from the penalty spot against the United States at Tokyo 2020 (Photo: Canada Soccer by Daniela Porcelli)

Some of the top goalscorers in the world will take centre stage in Paris, with the top three finishers in the 2023 World Cup Golden Boot race expected to play in Paris. Japan’s Hinata Miyazawa won that award with five goals and an assist, beating France’s Kadidiatou Diani (four goals, three assists) and Germany’s Alexandra Popp (four goals, no assists) – who also finished second in scoring at the 2022 European Championship.

Some of the best young players in the sport will have a chance to star as well, including Colombian attacker Linda Caicedo, American attacker Jaedyn Shaw, Canadian defender Jade Rose, Australian midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross and German midfielder Lena Oberdorf, among many others.

One of the noticeable absences from the tournament will be Australian star Sam Kerr after she suffered an ACL injury in January. Japan’s Jun Endo and American forwards Midge Purce and Mia Fishel have already been ruled out as well after suffering ACL injuries of their own in February.

Who are the coaches?

Every good team needs a good coach, and some of the world’s best will lead their teams into the Olympic Games this summer.

Canada’s Bev Priestman comes in as the reigning champion, three years after leading Les Rouges to the top step of the podium in her first major international tournament as a head coach. Since a disappointing showing at the Women’s World Cup last summer, Priestman has changed up her squad, both in terms of tactics and players after the retirements of veterans Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt. She will be looking to get Canada onto the podium for the fourth consecutive Olympics. 

Paris 2024 will also be the first major tournament for the United States under new head coach Emma Hayes. The longtime Chelsea boss will leave the club at the end of the Women’s Super League season to join the USWNT, and will get the June and July international windows to prepare her squad before the Olympics kicks off. It’s been a disappointing few years for the American program, but bringing in one of the best coaches in the club game could get them back to their very best.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes with the Women’s Super League trophy. (Photo: Chelsea)

Following the departure of controversial head coach Jorge Vilda after their World Cup triumph last summer, Spain will be led into the Olympics by Montserrat Tomé, one of Vilda’s former assistants. Tomé was appointed in September 2023 when Vilda’s contract was terminated, and Spain went on to win the first edition of the UEFA Women’s Nations League back in February. 

The hosts have put their faith in Hervé Renard to deliver a first major title for the French women’s national team. Les Bleues hired Renard in March 2023 on a contract through the end of the Paris Olympics, taking over from Corinne Diacre after the latter had several irreparable relationships with members of the French squad. One of Renard’s goals was to rebuild some of those bridges, and he guided France to the quarter-finals of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, where they lost to co-hosts Australia on penalties. He is the second manager, after Canada’s John Herdman, to manage games in both the senior men’s and women’s World Cups – and the first to win a game in each following his time with the Saudi Arabian men’s national team at the 2022 World Cup, where they beat eventual winners Argentina.

After their recent successes in Australia and New Zealand, respectively, Tony Gustavsson and Jitka Klimková will look to continue the upwards trajectories of their respective teams, and new Brazil boss Arthur Elias will look to keep some momentum with the Brazilian national team after finishing second at the Concacaf W Gold Cup in March.

Bev Priestman gives a speech after Canada qualifies for Paris 2024 at BMO Field in Toronto. (Photo: Canada Soccer)

Locations and Stadiums

The women’s football tournament at Paris 2024 will take place across seven of the best stadiums in France, spread out across seven cities.

The gold medal match will take place at Parc des Princes in Paris on Aug. 10, the day after Stade de Lyon in Décines-Charpieu (a part of Lyon) hosts the bronze medal match. The semifinals will be held at Stade de Lyon and Stade de Marseille, a few days after those two stadiums and Parc des Princes host the quarter-finals on Aug. 3.

The other four stadiums will only host group stage matches – Stade de Bordeaux, Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Étienne, and Stade de Nice.

Other non-football venues for the Olympics include iconic French locations like the Stade de France, the Stade Roland Garros, and the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, among others – with the opening ceremony set to take place on the River Seine. 

Where can I follow the tournament?

The Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics can be watched in Canada on CBC, TSN and Sportsnet in English, as well as Radio-Canada and RDS in French. 

Follow all the action right here at as well, as we will have full coverage of the women’s national team before, during and after the tournament, as always.