Sunday, September 09, 2007

Women's World Cup Preview: Group D

Nickname: Canarinha
Current world ranking: 8
Coach: Jorge Barcellos, who previously led the U20s to the bronze medal at the world championship in 2006.
How they qualified: Runners-up to Argentina at the South American qualifying tournament in November 2006.
Past record: Have qualified for every World Cup – the only South American team to do so. Their previous best was a third-place finish in 1999.
Other results: Five-time South American Champions. Silver medalists at the 2004 Olympics.
Why they could win: The Brazilians have a skilful, fluid style of play and have also been working on improving their defence. On the other hand, they also have a relatively young side, and the lack of experience could bring them down.
Key players: Marta, the 2006 FIFA Women's Player of the Year, is essentially the female Ronaldinho. You've all see that YouTube video where she's basically dribbling around players for the fun of it, right? She's complemented up front by the left-footed Cristiane, who scored 12 goals in 7 games during their qualifying campaign, and the veteran Katia, appearing in her third World Cup.
Predicted finish: Quarter-finals

Nickname: Steel Roses
Current world ranking: 11
Coach: Marika Domanski-Lyfors, who formerly coached Sweden, became China's first foreign manager when she took over this spring.
How they qualified: Qualified automatically as hosts, but also won the Asian championship in July 2006.
Past record: Runners-up to the USA in 1999, they were eliminated by Canada in the quarter-finals in 2003.
Other results: Eight-time AFC champions.
Why they could win: China have home-field advantage, which should give them an edge, but on the other hand there's a danger that they could crumble under the weight of expectation. The team will be trying to bounce back after a disastrous performance at the Algarve Cup earlier in the year.
Key players: Striker Han Duan, already a veteran at only 23, is speedy and good in the air. Ma Xiaoxu, another striker, is only 19 but was the AFC Women's Player of the Year in 2006. She won the golden ball and the golden shoe at last year's U20 world championship and is known as "Lady Wayne Rooney" in China – presumably for her goal-scoring prowess rather than any other similarities.
Predicted finish: Quarter-finals

Nickname: Nothing that I could find, but Wikipedia tells me that the men's team are called the "Danish Dynamite," which is…kind of lame, actually
Current world ranking: 6
Coach: Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who took charge last year after previously coaching the women's team at Brondby.
How they qualified: Narrowly won their UEFA qualifying group, with a 6-1-1 record.
Past record: Have made it to the quarter-finals twice, in 1991 and 1995, but failed to qualify in 2003.
Other results: Semi-finalists at Euro 2001; won the silver medal at the Algarve Cup this year.
Why they could win: Denmark have plenty of experience and are solid from back to front. They struggled through qualifying, though, and have never managed to set the world alight at this level.
Key players: Katrine Pedersen in defence, Anne Dot Eggers Nielsen in midfield, and Denmark's top scorer Meret Pedersen up front are the core of the team. They're complemented by attacking midfielder Catherine Paaske Sorensen, who was the top scorer in the Danish league last year.
Predicted finish: First-round elimination

Nickname: Football Ferns
Current world ranking: 23
Coach: John Herdman, who moved up to become the senior team's coach in March after guiding the U20s through the world championships last year.
How they qualified: Easily won the Oceania championship in April 2007, finishing with a +20 goal differential.
Past record: Qualified only once before, back in 1991, when they lost all three group games.
Other results: Not much; they were perennial runners-up in Oceania until Australia moved to the Asian federation.
Why they could win: Let's face it, they probably won't. New Zealand have a relatively young side, leavened by a handful of more experienced players. They'll just be looking to pick up their first points in a World Cup tournament.
Key players: Veteran Maia Jackman, making her first appearance at the World Cup, is a versatile player who can play as a striker, centre back, or right-sided midfielder.
Predicted finish: First-round elimination

Group Predictions
I originally picked Group B as the group of death, but I actually think it's this one, because Group B has the USA as clear favourites whereas here there are three teams all with an pretty equal chance of finishing on top. Denmark are ranked higher than both Brazil and China, but they're the weakest of the three Scandinavian teams and getting out of the group could be tough. I picked Brazil and China to go through, partly just for the sake of balance so that there'd be a South American and an Asian team in the quarter-finals.

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