Sunday, September 09, 2007

Women's World Cup Preview: Group A

Nickname: Die Nationalelf (nothing to do with Legolas; it means "the national XI")
Current world ranking: 2
Coach: Silvia Neid, who took over in 2005, having previously led the U-19 side to the title at the world championships in 2004. She was also a member of the German side that lost in the final in 1995.
How they qualified: Won their UEFA qualifying group with a flawless campaign, winning all eight games.
Past record: Reigning world and European champions, Germany are always one of the favourites for the title. Their worst performance was in 1999, when they only made it to the quarter-finals.
Other results: Six-time European champions; they were also bronze medalists at the 2004 Olympics.
Why they could win: Germany are a very talented and physically tough team. They cruised through qualifying, scoring 31 – with goals coming from all sorts of different players – and only conceded three, thanks to the strength of goalkeeper Silke Rottenburg and a solid defence in front of her.
Key players: Striker Birgit Prinz racked up eight goals in qualifying and is a two-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year. Midfielder Renate Lingor is the team's linchpin; she has great vision and can be deadly from set pieces.
Predicted finish: Runners-up

Nickname: Three Lions (or should that be the Three Lionesses?)
Current world ranking: 12
Coach: Hope Powell, appointed as the team's first-ever full-time coach (and also their first female coach) in 1998; she racked up 66 caps and 35 goals for England in her career.
How they qualified: Finished on top of a tough UEFA qualifying group that also included France and the Netherlands, with a 6-2-0 record.
Past record: Only one previous appearance at the World Cup, in 1995, when they were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals.
Other results: Not much to speak of, although they were semi-finalists at the European championships in 1995.
Why they could win: Women's football in England has made great strides in recent years, boosted by hosting the Euro 2005 tournament, but there have also been setbacks like the Charlton ladies' team being closed down due to lack of funding. They lost 1-0 to China in a recent World Cup warmup game, but they're still riding the high from their successful qualifying campaign, where they only gave up two goals.
Key players: Strikers Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith, who both play for the quadruple-winning Arsenal ladies' team. Smith was the player of the tournament at the Four Nations Tournament in China last year.
Predicted finish: Quarter-finals

Nickname: Nadeshiko (the Japanese word for the wild pink carnation that has come to symbolise the country's ideal woman)
Current world ranking: 10
Coach: Hiroshi Ohashi, who took over in 2004.
How they qualified: Finished a disappointing fourth at the Asian championship in July 2006, but beat Mexico in a playoff to earn a spot at the World Cup.
Past record: Have qualified for every tournament, but their best result was reaching the quarter-finals in 1995.
Other results: Four-time runners-up at the AFC championship.
Why they could win: Japan has a well-balanced, hard-working team. The players support each other selflessly, and they're good at creating space and passing around opponents. However, they struggled in qualifying, and hard work alone won't be enough to get them through the tournament.
Key players: Midfielder Homare Sawa, Japan's all-time scoring leader, with 60 goals in 118 caps. This is her fourth consecutive World Cup, and she's got lots of experience, having made her first appearance in the Japanese women's league at age 12.
Predicted finish: First-round elimination

Nickname: Albicelestes
Current world ranking: 29
Coach: Carlos Borello, who's been in charge since 1998; he previously coached at San Martin de Burzaco in Buenos Aires.
How they qualified: Upset Brazil to win the South American qualifying tournament in November 2006.
Past record: Qualified for the first time in 2003, when they lost all three of their group games and finished with a goal difference of -14.
Other results: Three-time runners-up for the CONMEBOL title, before finally beating Brazil last year.
Why they could win: That victory over Brazil in the South American championship is a big point in their favour, but the fact is that – unlike the situation with the men's teams – Argentina are not nearly as strong as the Brazilians. The Argentines have good passing and ball-control skills, but have been let down by some wayward finishing.
Key players: Striker Maria Belen Potassa, who scored one of the key goals against Brazil and previously played with the U20s in 2006, is quick and has a good shot. Influential veterans include Marisa Perez and Rosana Gomez in midfield, and Romina Ferro in goal.
Predicted finish: First-round elimination

Group Predictions
Germany are the obvious favourites to win the group, and I think they can go all the way to the finals. England may be ranked below Japan, but I see them as a dark-horse candidate here. Unfortunately, the draw means that they'd probably end up facing the USA in the quarter-finals, which would likely spell an end to their campaign. Argentina may have beaten Brazil recently, but I don't think they're ready for the world stage yet.


Carrie said...

Aha, Jen, I see you're even braver than I initially thought from your prediction at Kickster! We're just putting up a link to your blog - any chance of reciprocating?

Jen said...

Yes, thanks, a link would be great! I've added you to mine.