Sunday, September 09, 2007

Women's World Cup Preview: Group C

Nickname: Gresshoppene
Current world ranking: 4
Coach: Bjarne Berntsen, who took over in 2004 and guided the team to the final of Euro 2005.
How they qualified: Won their UEFA qualifying group, with a 7-1-0 record.
Past record: Won the 1995 World Cup and finished fourth in 1999, but were disappointingly eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2003.
Other results: Finished second at Euro 2005, and won the Olympic gold medal in 2000.
Why they could win: Berntsen has transformed the team with a more attacking style of play, and brought up new players from the U19s like Isabell Herlovsen and Stine Frantzen. However, they've suffered from a lack of consistent finishing up front.
Key players: Midfield playmaker Solveig Gulbrandsen, back after the birth of her first son, has 33 goals in 105 caps. Experienced goalkeeper Bente Nordby is one of the best in the world.
Predicted finish: Semi-finals

Nickname: Matildas
Current world ranking: 15
Coach: Tom Sermanni, who returned to the team in 2005, having also coached them from 1994 to 1997.
How they qualified: Runners-up to China at the Asian championship in July 2006. With China qualifying automatically, Australia got the region's first qualifying spot.
Past record: Have qualified for three previous tournaments (1995, 1999 and 2003) but failed to make it past the group stage each time.
Other results: Three-time champions of Oceania before switching to the Asian confederation; also made it to the quarter-finals at the 2004 Olympics.
Why they could win: Australia has a talented, athletic team, with a mix of experience and youth. They beat China recently in two consecutive World Cup warmup matches.
Key players: Skipper and centreback Cheryl Salisbuy, with 127 caps and 30 goals, will be playing in her fourth world cup. Youngsters like Sally Shipard, Collette McCallum and Kylie Ledbrook have joined the team from the U20 squad.
Predicted finish: First-round elimination

Nickname: Big Red (really? ugh.)
Current world ranking: 9
Coach: Norway's Even Pellerud, who's been in charge since 1999; he previously managed the Norwegian women's team that won the World Cup in 1995.
How they qualified: Runners-up to the USA at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in November 2006.
Past record: Qualified in both 1995 and 1999, when they were eliminated at the group stage; in 2003 they had a great run and finished fourth.
Other results: Second at the 2007 Gold Cup. The U19 team also won the silver medal at the 2002 world championship.
Why they could win: The Canadian team is physically strong and quick on the break. They had a relatively young squad in 2003, when they made it as far as the semi-finals, but the team is more mature now, and looking to make up for the result in the Gold Cup this year, when they were only narrowly beaten by the USA in the final. They've had some uneven results recently, though, including a so-so campaign at the Pan Am Games and a scoreless draw with Japan in a World Cup warmup.
Key players: Captain Christine Sinclair, with 56 goals from 88 caps, is Canada's top scorer. She was player of the tournament at the U19 world championship in 2002, and then scored three goals in five games at the 2003 World Cup. Fellow striker Kara Lang is coming back from a torn ACL, but has a powerful free kick and is also good in the air.
Predicted finish: Semi-finals

Nickname: Black Queens
Current world ranking: 47
Coach: Isaac Paha, who took over in 2004. He captained Ghana as a player and also coached the men's U17 team to second place at the world championships back in 1992.
How they qualified: Runners-up behind Nigeria at the African championship in November 2006.
Past record: Qualified twice before, in 1999 and 2003, but failed to make it out of their group both times.
Other results: Three-time runners-up for the CAF title.
Why they could win: Ghana have some talented players with lots of skill on the ball, but their chances are pretty slim, to be honest.
Key players: Attacking midfielder Adjoa Bayor, the former African Women's Footballer of the Year. Striker Anita Amankwa is a new addition to the team with plenty of speed.
Predicted finish: First-round elimination

Group Predictions
Norway are the top seed and will be looking to redeem themselves after a relatively unsuccessful tournament in 2003. Winning the group could set up a European showdown with Germany in the semi-finals. I think Canada have a good chance of being the second team to qualify for the knockout rounds, but if they progress they'll likely come up against the USA in the semis. Australia have never made it out of their group before and I don't think they'll do it here either, while Ghana will just be trying for a better finish than their continental rivals Nigeria.


Neil said...

I think you may be underestimating the chances of Australia - although I am slightly biased in my opinion - but I think they will get past the group stage. This is probably the best squad in overall depth that we have ever sent to a World Cup and the results against China show that. The key is getting all three points from the game against Ghana. They don't get that much coverage here in Australia - so I'm hoping they do well to get some decent coverage.

Jen said...

Australia have a decent chance, but I figure it's going to come down to them and the Canadians for second spot in the group, and I have to go with my home team here.

Neil said...

Have to agree with you that it will be between Canada and Australia for that second spot. It all comes down to the third game of the group stage - hopefully its a cracker. Luckily for us - the games are on in prime time so I'll be able to catch all the action.