2015 Women’s World Cup Preview, Group A – Group C

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TimGrainey–The2015Women’sWorldCupkicksoffthissummerinCanada?

Thetournamenthasbeenexpandedto24teamsandthisyear’seventhasmoreteamswitharealisticchanceoftakingthetitle。

Theteamshavebeendividedinto6groupsof4withthetop2finishersineachgroupalongwiththetop4thirdplacefinishersadvancingtotheRoundof16。

TheGraineyReportpreviewsthe6Groupsand24teamsstartingwithalookatGroupsA,B,andCandfollowedlaterthisweekbyanexaminationofGroupsD,E,andF。

MorefromTheGraineyReportonthe2015WomensWorldCup

Women’sGameReadyforHistoricWorldCup

CanadascoachJohnHerdmanwillhavehisteamreadytodefendhomesoil

GROUPA

(Canada,ChinaPR,NewZealandandtheNetherlands)

Canada

Canadaarguablyhasmorepressureonthemthananyotherteam?

TheMapleLeafs’haveshowngreatformlatelytakingtheOlympicBronzemedalinLondonin2012andmorerecentlywinningtheBaoAnCuptitleinChinawithwinsoverChina,KoreaRepublicandMexicoearlierthismonth?

Inadditiontotheirform,thefactthattheyarehostsheapsadditionalpressureonanynationalteam,men’sorwomen’s。

Despitethepressure,headcoachJohnHerdmanhastheteamwellpreparedandshouldadvancefromwhatisachallenginggroup?

Herdmanhaschangedtheirtraditionallongballapproach—whichunderformerheadcoach(andnowinchargeofNorway)EvenPellerud,helpedCanadafinishfourthatWWC2003intheU。

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sincehearrivedfromNewZealand’sWomen’sNationalTeamafterthe2011WorldCupsotheteamismorecomfortableinpossession。

TheMapleLeafshavesomeverytalentedplayers,ledbytwoexperiencedgoalkeepersinKarinaLeBlanc(ChicagoRedStars)andErinMcLeod(HoustonDash),topmidfieldersSophieSchmidt(SkyBlueFC)andDesireeScott(NottsCounty)andforwardChristineSinclair(PortlandThorns)。

Thehomecrowdbringsaddedpressurebutalsoaddedmotivation?

Theteamwillhavegreatsupportintheirimportantgroupstagematches,2inEdmontonand1inMontreal?

Butattheendoftheday,anythinglessthanafinalfourappearanceforthecurrentOlympicBronzeMedalistswillbeahugedisappointment。

ChinaPR

Chinawasawomen’ssoccerpowerhouseinthelate1990’s?

TheSteelRosesfinishedin4thplacein1995andplayedthepartofrunners-uptotheUSAafterlosinginpenaltiesin1999?

Thesidehasslippedinthepastfewyearsanddidnotevenqualifyforthe2011WorldCup。

Theyreturntothe2015WorldCupwithayoungersidethatbasetheirgameonspeedandballcontrolwhichwillcauseteamsproblems?

YangLiwasagoalscoringforceintheAsianCupqualifiers,with6goalsinfivegamesfortheHaoWeicoachedsideandwillbeakeyiftheteamisexpectedtoadvancetotheeliminationround。

ButmostlikelythiswillbebuildingandlearningexperienceforChinawiththe2019Women’sWorldCup,mostlikelyinFranceorSouthKorea,morerealisticopportunitytoonceagainchallengeforthetitle。

NewZealand

NewZealandismakingtheir3rdconsecutiveWorldCupappearance(4thoverall)andhasthebestchanceinteamhistorytoadvancetotheeliminationround,mostlikelyasa3rdplacefinisher?

TheFernslearnedwhatittakestogettothenextstageoftournamentsafteradvancingtothequarterfinalsoftheLondon2012OlympicsandwillapplythoselessonsinCanada。

Thebiggestobstacleinthepasthasbeentheteam’slackofdepthbutformerheadcoachJohnHerdman(Canada’scurrentheadcoach)andcurrentcoachTonyReadingshavesuccessfullyworkedtoincreasetheplayerpool?

Thebiggestchangewiththesquadisthenumberofplayersgettingminutesabroad?

TheteamisledbydefenderandcaptainAbbyErcig(ChicagoRedStarsin2014)alongwithAmerican-raiseddefenderAliRiley(RosengardinSweden),forwardAmberHearn(NottsCountyintheFAWSL/formerlywiththeOttawaFuryintheW-Leaguein2011),forwardHannahWikinson(UniversityofTennessee),forwardStephanieSkilton(SyracuseUniversity)andmidfielderBetsyHassett(ManchesterCity/whoplayedattheUniversityofCalifornia)。

TheNetherlands

TheNetherlandsisoneof7nation’smakingtheirWomen’sWorldCupdebutbutdon’tthinkthiswillslowheadcoachRogerReijners’sidedown?

ThepathtoCanadafortheOranjestartedin2007withthepushtodevelopmorewomen’splayersandwasaidedin2012whentheBeNeLeague,adomesticleaguesupportedbytheRoyalBelgianFootballAssociationandtheRoyalDutchFootballAssociation,wasformed。

Themajorityofplayersareinthisleague?

StarstrikerManonMelis(Kopparbergs/GothenburgofSweden)isaworldclassstrikerandbackboneoftheteam?

Sincedebutingin2004,Melishasearned100+capsandbeenthefocusforopposingdefenses。

VivianneMiedemaisthefutureand1exampleofhowmuchimprovedthedevelopmentprogramisintheNetherlands?

The18-year-oldscoredallthreegoalswhentheNetherlandsdefeatedItaly(3-2)inthetwolegsUEFAfinalforthelastspotinCanada?

Shescored41timesforSCHeerenveenintheBeNeLeaguelastseasonandhassincejoinedBayernMunichinGermany。

Thisteamcouldeasilymakethequarterfinals。

GROUPB

(Coted’Ivoire,Germany,NorwayandThailand)

Coted’Ivoire(IvoryCoast)

Coted’Ivoire(ormorecommonlyknownastheIvoryCoast)aremakingtheirWomen’sWorldCupdebut?

LesElephantesdefeated2012OlympicGamesparticipantSouthAfrica1-0inthethirdplacematchofthe2014AfricanChampionshipsinNamibiatobooktheirplaceinCanada。

20-year-oldRebeccaGuehaiIda,playsforJuventusDeYopougoninCoted’Ivoire,scoredthegamewinneragainstSouthAfrica?

Sheisjustoneplayerofthemostlydomestic-basedteamalthoughafewontherosterhavedonewellinEasternEurope,includingdynamicforwardJoseNahiofZvezda2005PerminRussiaandTiaInesN’RehyofZFKSpartakSuboticaofSerbia。

Coted’IvoirehavethetalenttofinishthirdinthisgroupwithawinoverThailandbutwillhavedifficulyadvancingtotheRoundof16asathirdplacefinisher。

Germany

AstrongattackcombinedwitharobustdefensemakesFIFA’stoprankedteam,Germany,agoodbettowinanunprecedented3rdWomen’sWorldCuptitle?

TheyhavetheadditionalchallengeofmatchingtherecentsuccessoftheirUnder-20nationalteam,whowonlastsummer’sU-20WorldCupalsoinCanada。

GermanysNadineKessleraccepts2014BallondOr

DieNationalelf(theNationalEleven)wereWorldCupwinnersin2003and2007butsurprisinglyfelltoJapaninthequarterfinalsathomefouryearsago。

FormerFIFAWorldPlayeroftheYearandgoalkeeperNadineAngererplayedwithPortlandThornsandBrisbaneRoarin2014whilestillbackstoppingthenationalteam。

AnjaMittag—wholedallDamallsvenskanscorerswith21forSwedishchampionsRosengardin2014—iskeytoastrongattack。

NadineKesslerofWolfsburgjustwontheFIFABallonD’OrastheWorldPlayeroftheyearoverAbbyWambachandMartaofBrazilandisastrongmidfielderwhowonaUEFAtitlein2013withGermanyinSweden。

GermanywilladvancetotheeliminationroundandnothingshortofhoistingthetrophyatthefinalwillbeconsideredasuccessbutonewellwithinreachofSilviaNeid’steam。

Norway

Norwayishopingtocelebratethe20thanniversaryoftheir1995Women’sWorldCuptitlewithasecondtitlethissummerandbelievetheyhaveallthepiecesinplace?

HeadcoachEvenPellerud,whoguidedtheteamtothe’95title,isbackatthehelm。

TheGresshoppene(theGrasshoppers)arepacedbytwo19-year-oldforwards?

CarolineHansenisnowwithtwo-timeUEFAChampionsLeaguewinnersWolfsburgofGermanyafteraspellwithTyresoinSwedenandAdaHegerberghas19goalsin14matchesforOlympiqueLyoninFrancesofarinthe2014/15seasonandwaspreviouslywithTurbinePotsdamofGermany。

Thailand

CanadawillbealearningexperienceforThailand,makingtheirfirstappearanceataWomen’sWorldCup?

TheChangsuk(theWarElephants)qualifiedbydefeatingVietnam2-1totake5thplaceinthe2014AsianChampionshipsandthefinalAFCWorldCupberth?

ThaicoachNuengrutaiSrathongviansudefinishedqualifyingwith2wins(theotherwasa2-1groupvictoryoverMyanmar)buta4/13(goalsfor/goalsagainst)scoringratioshowhowtheystruggletofindproductionagainstbettercompetitionevenattheregionallevel。

ForwardKanjanaSung-Ngoenscoredthreeofthosefourgoals。

JapanthecurrentWomensWorldCupholdersafterwinningthetitlein2011。

GROUPC

(Cameroon,Ecuador,JapanandSwitzerland)

Cameroon

CameroonfinishedsecondtoNigeriaintheAfricanChampionships,duringwhichGaelleEnganamouitwastiedwiththirdoverallamongtournamentgoalscorerswiththree。

Enganamouit,whospentthe2014seasonwithEskilstunaUnitedinSwedenafterplayingforSerbianpowerSpartakSubotica,wasEskilstuna’sleadingscorerwith5goals。

Thirty-year-oldCameroondefenderandcaptainChristineManie(OlimpiaUniversitateaofRomania)isagoalscoringthreatoncornersandfreekicks。

CameroonshouldfinishthirdinthisgroupbutthatmaynotbeenoughtomaketheRoundof16。

Ecuador

EcuadorhostedtheCONMEBOLChampionshipsat6,000feetQuitoandfinishedasurprisingthirdoverArgentina。

TheybuckedtheoddsagainstCONCACAF’sTrinidadTobago(0-0inQuitoand1-0inPort-au-Spain)withtheirwinning(andonly)goalin180minutescominginthefinalminuteoftheIntercontinentalplay-infromMonicaQuinteros。

Ecuadoriswhollyhome-bredbutcouldfindreinforcementsthroughdiasporainNorthorSouthAmerica。

CanadawillbealearningtripforEcuadorbuttheirsurprisingqualificationdoeshelpCONMEBOLinfutureWWCslotallocationsandshouldspurmoredevelopmentathome。

Japan

ThereigningWorldChampionswenttoCanadalastfallandwontwogamesoverthissummer’sWorldCuphost。

AgoodhalfofJapan’srostershouldcomefromEuropeanorNWSL-basedplayers,includingAyaSameshima(HoustonDash)andNahomiKawasumi(SeattleReignFC),thelatterwhowassucharevelationfortheNWSLFinalistsin2014。

Theteamhasanicemixofyouthandexperienceandshouldmakeastrongchallengetodefendtheircrown。

Switzerland

AnotherEuropeandebutantalongwiththeNetherlandsinGroupAandSpaininGroupE,SwitzerlandcouldbeagoodbettomakethequarterfinalsintheirWorldCupdebut。

TwoplayerswithU。

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connectionshavebeenstalwarts:RamonaBachmann,whoplayedwithAtlantaBeatinWPSandnowplayswithreigningSwedishchampionsFCRosengard,andLaraDickenmann,whoplayedcollegiatelyatOhioStateUniversityintheStatesandhasbeenalongtimemainstayatformerUEFAchampionsOlympiqueLyon。

SwitzerlandattimescanshowtheirnervesandmaybetestedbyCameroonbuttheSwissshouldstilladvancetotheroundof16。

TimGraineywasthecontributingeditorforwomen’ssoccerforSoccer365。

com,thepredecessorto365。

WorldSoccerShop。

com,inhisregularcolumnTheGraineyReport。

HewillbepostingstoriesontheFIFAWomen’sWorldCupoverthecomingmonthsasthefirstkickofCanada2015drawsnear。

HeistheauthorofBeyondBenditLikeBeckham。

AndyoucanfollowTimonTwitter@TimGrainey。

Thebestselectionofofficiallylicensedgearofthe2015Women’sWorldCupandthe32team’scompetinginCanadawillbeavailablethroughtheOfficialFIFAOnlineStore,WorldSoccerShop,andotherfinesoccerretailers。

Willyoubewatchingthe2015WomensWorldCupthissummer?

Willitbethemosthistoricinthehistoryofthetournament?

Voiceyouropinionsbelow。


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