TOKYO (AP)Concerns from the Canadian and Swedish soccer teams about Tokyo’s intense morning heat have resulted in the rescheduling and relocation of the women’s Olympic final.
Rather than kicking off at 11 a.m. in the Olympic Stadium on Friday, the gold-medal match will start 10 hours later at 9 p.m. in Yokohama.
”The change makes absolute sense for what the spectacle can be,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said Thursday.
To avoid a clash with the women’s final, the men’s bronze-medal match between host Japan and Mexico was brought forward two hours to kick off at 6 p.m. in Saitama.
The weather has been hot and humid, with the temperature forecast to hit 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tokyo on Friday.
Olympic organizers said the switch was made ”in order to continue to provide the best possible conditions for the players, and having taken into consideration the impact of weather conditions at the Olympic Stadium over the last few days.”
The women’s final couldn’t be delayed at the Olympic Stadium because the venue is being used for track and field, so organizers shifted it to the Yokohama stadium which is also hosting the men’s final on Saturday night.
”We appreciate the focus of all parties in providing the best possible conditions for the players and look forward to outstanding Olympic matches showcasing the players,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
The original morning kickoff in Tokyo was well-placed for primetime audiences on Thursday night in the United States. But the U.S. women’s team lost to Canada in the semifinals and had to settle for bronze.
Canada and Sweden made requests to move the match out of concern for player safety. The request was only granted late Thursday, a move made easier because no fans are allowed into the final because of pandemic restrictions.
”It’s going to make for a better game,” Canada defender Ashley Lawrence said.
Sweden is making its second straight appearance in the women’s Olympic final, after losing to Germany in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
Canada, meanwhile, has won bronze medals at the last two Olympics. With a 1-0 victory over the United States in the semifinals, Canada is already assured of either the gold or silver.
”I think for us we were clear that we definitely wanted to change the color of the medal and we knew that was a massive, massive task,” Priestman said. ”But I knew that if the group believed when they stepped over the white line, we can absolutely do it. We’ve got bags of talent in the team. And for the program, I think it sets us up really nicely to be able to keep pushing forward. But I’m clear that winners win and we’re going into this final to go get a gold medal. ”
The teams met in the round of 16 at the World Cup in France, with the Sweden winning 1-0. Canada has not beaten the Swedes since a 1-0 victory in a 2017 friendly.
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