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Men's Olympic Football Tournament to Begin in China

The women's Olympic football (soccer) tournament is in full swing in China, and now it is the men's turn to take the field ahead of the opening ceremonies on Friday. At the Beijing Games, VOA's Jim Stevenson has this preview.

A total of 16 men's football teams will begin their quest for the Olympic gold medal on Thursday. Among the nations are host China and reigning World Cup champion Italy. Five-time World Cup champion Brazil has never won at the Olympics. An improving United States team will also try to reach the top of the podium.

U.S. women's soccer veteran Kate Markgraf says it is exciting to have the U.S. men back in the Olympics.

"They have not played since 2000 at the Olympic Games," she said. "I was lucky enough to be in the 2000 Olympic Games and be able to cheer at some of their games. So we are really happy about that. And really happy about where soccer is coming in this country (USA) and going to."

The opening games are being played in Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Shanghai and Tianjin.

Also in the field are Australia, Serbia, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Japan, Netherlands, Nigeria, Belgium, New Zealand, Honduras, South Korea and Cameroon.

The men's bronze medal game will be on Friday, August 22 in Shanghai. The tournament concludes the next day in Beijing's National Stadium, also known as the "Bird's Nest" because of its iconic twisted steel exterior. The women's tournament began on Wednesday.