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Women's World Cup

2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup preview

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The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off on Saturday, June 6 and continues through until the final on July 5. To stay updated on the participating teams, here are the groups, previews, teams and schedule:

Group A

June 6
Canada vs. China (FOX Sports 1, 6 p.m. ET)
New Zealand vs. Netherlands (FOX Sports 2, 9 p.m. ET)

June 11
China vs. Netherlands (FOX Sports 2, 6 p.m. ET)
Canada vs. New Zealand (FOX Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET)

June 15
Netherlands vs. Canada (FOX Sports 1, 7:30 p.m. ET)
China vs. New Zealand (FOX Sports 2, 7:30 p.m. ET)

 

Canada

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Canada has had their share of disappointment and heartbreak on the world stage. However, this year nothing would be sweeter then winning a first World Cup title on home soil.

This team’s greatest strength will be the help of their 12th man. Canada has been building buzz around this tournament since FIFA announced in 2011 that Canada would be hosting the pinnacle event. Soccer fever has never been higher in this country and Canadian players feel that the home field advantage will play a huge factor.

The Canadian national team has been training longer then just about any other team. Canadian players enjoyed a brief period of time with their club teams before being called into residency camp in April. That also means they have been spent the most time practicing on the artificial surfaces.

Canada Head Coach John Herdman has enlisted the help of familiar names to form the spine of the Canadian team. Christine Sinclair will be the lynchpin behind any offense, but more importantly Herdman’s midfield provides grit and pace too.

One question will remain, who will start in net for the Canadians? While it looks like Erin McLeod might be the more likely the choice, Karina LeBlanc will be hungry for some time in net after her recent announcement to retire from international play after this tournament.

 

Netherlands

netherlands-wwc

The Lionesses are a young team that has slowly been on the rise in Europe. In their first World Cup, the team will be looking to make a splash to showcase a hungry and talented group of young players with something to prove. A good showing in Canada could launch the Lionesses into the global elite and provide a major step for the development of women’s football in the Netherlands.

While youth and inexperience typically work against a team in a major tournament, the Dutch may be the exception. Eighteen-year-old star striker and Bayern Munich forward Vivianne Miedema led her team with 16 goals in qualifying including an impressive hat trick against Portugal. She scored all three goals in just 15 minutes.

The Netherlands are stout and disciplined along the back line and will not be giving up any cheap goals. They may find it hard to match the physicality of a team with a powerful front line, such as Canada or Sweden. They will need to remain calm when faced with that kind of pressure and rely on quick passes through the middle to launch effective counterattacks.

ESPN women’s expert Julie Foudy has already picked this team to take first in the group stage. The Dutch could prove to be the dark horse of the tournament.

 

China

After China dominated the women’s soccer landscape in the 1990’s, the team failed to secure a spot in this prestigious tournament four years ago. Several changes were made to the team after a disappointing 2011, including bringing in a new head coach, Hao Wei. She has helped bring together a younger team based on technical skill and passing.

With no appearance in the 2011 tournament, Wei’s team feature players with little experience on the big stage. That could lead to the team taking a defensive strategy against the offensive power of their group opponents.

If the Steel Roses are able to fend off the likes of Canada’s Sinclair and Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema, they can use their patient and precise passing to launch the counterattack or work their way into the final third.

Any attack that China offers will be centered around 24-year-old Yan Li and 23-year-old Xu Yanlu, who was nicknamed “Little Messi” by her teammates. Yanlu has the speed and skill to find the open space while Li offers a nose of goal in front of the net.

 

New Zealand

New Zealand has one goal for this tournament, to post their first World Cup win.

The Ferns typically find easy entry to the tournament and this year was no different. They only needed to play three games in order to secure a spot in Canada with a combined score line of 30-0. Their opposition in Group A will be slightly more difficult to register wins against. They will find it problematic to handle the technical side that China presents while also matching the offensive skills of the Netherlands or Canada.

Despite their lack of wins in this major tournament, the Ferns have athletic players with solid international experience. There are no superstar names on this roster but the likes of Ali Riley, Abby Erceg and Amber Hearn are familiar and always reliable.

 

SEE MOREWomen’s World Cup TV schedule for viewers in USA.

 

Group B

June 7
Norway vs. Thailand (FOX, 1 p.m. ET)
Germany vs. Cote d’Ivoire (FOX, 4 p.m. ET)

June 11
Germany vs. Norway (FOX Sports 1, 4 p.m. ET)
Cote d’Ivoire vs. Thailand (FOX Sports 1, 7 p.m. ET)

June 15
Thailand vs. Germany (FOX, 4 p.m. ET)
Cote d’Ivoire vs. Norway (FOX Sports 1, 4 p.m ET)

 

Germany

The Germans are out to solidify their number one world ranking with a third World Cup title. They look poised to do it as one of the most balanced and well rounded teams in the tournament.

This team has it all. Power, pace, skill, discipline and chemistry on the field and the bench. This team will be looking to take the game to their opponent with high pressure from the first whistle. They can attack in several different ways, either using their technical abilities to break down a defense or a direct style of play led by strikers Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic.

The team will be without captain –and reigning FIFA Women’s Player of the Year– Nadine Kessler. Kessler was ruled out of the tournament due to a knee injury that required surgery. Her presence will be missed in the midfield and will require that Lena Goessling step up to fill the space.

Kessler was excellent in one-on-one situations, which was a weakness the German defense has shown in the past. The back line will need to keep play in front of them to make sure they are not outpaced in the open space behind them.

After ten years at the helm, Head Coach Silvia Neid has decided this will be her last year with the national team. Her players will surely be looking to send her off with one more trophy.

 

Cote D’Ivoire

Les Elephantes are newcomers to this World Cup and expectations for this team have not been set too high. Then again this resilient and determined team was not even expected to make it this far.

The women of the Ivory Coast grabbed the third place berth in the African World Championship. They faced a tough road in beating reigning African champions Equatorial Guinea before taking on heavy favorite South Africa in an all or nothing match for the final spot. It took one goal in the 84th minute to secure the win.

The road will only get tougher as the team takes on Germany in their opening game in only the second day of the tournament.

Head coach Clementine Toure has focused her squad on strong team play, especially in the defense. The team found a winning formula in the African World Championship. They maintain a defensive posture while holding off waves of attack before breaking out in the final minutes of a game. They rely on the fact that they only need one goal to win a game.
Will this strategy work on the world stage?

 

Norway

Norway’s international dominance has steady declined since their lone World Cup title in 1995. That championship team was lead by Even Pellerud. After a stint with the Canadian national team, Pellerud returned to Norway after an early exit in the group stage of the 2011 World Cup. Ranked 11th in the world, the Grasshoppers are working their way back to elite caliber starting this summer.

Norway will bring a mix of veterans and newcomers to Canada who appear well organized across all lines in their 4-2-3-1 formations. Trine Bjerke Ronning, now in her 30s, will spearhead a physical defense that allowed five goals in their qualifying campaign.
In 2011, the Grasshoppers only tallied two goals in group play. Pellerud will need to improve on that number if they plan on making it to the knockout stage this summer. Caroline Graham Hansen and Ada Hegerberg will be relied on to produce in the final third. Both are 19-years-old and scored eight and five goals respectively during qualifying.

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