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2015 Women's World Cup draw: Canada awaits its fate

2015 Women's World Cup draw: Canada awaits its fate

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 05, 2014

Bigger is not always better. Presumably, FIFA took that into account when deciding to expand its Women’s World Cup field by a whopping 50 per cent.

Canada will be the first to host a 24-nation tournament next summer — an increase of eight countries over its predecessors. Growing the global game is understandable, not to mention profitable, but there are qualifiers that are simply not equipped nor ready to compete at this level.

Nonetheless, they will proudly take their place in the draw that takes place Saturday at noon ET in Ottawa. Six groups of four will be spread across the six host cities to compete in round-robin play. The top two from each group, plus the four best third-place finishers, will advance to the Round of 16.

Here's a look at how things may shake out:

The seeds

As host, Canada will be one of six seeded nations. In all likelihood it will be the weakest. In terms of technical ability and speed of play, Canada does not compare well against the elite women’s teams.

The Canadians will be placed in Group A and can only hope for a favourable draw. It is crucial John Herdman’s team wins the group to avoid the probability of facing one of the big guns in the first knockout round. Momentum is a vital component in tournament soccer, so Canada must get into its stride from the word go.

 A bronze medal at the London Olympics may create a false level of expectation. Four years ago, at the last Women’s World Cup, Canada was the first nation to be eliminated. Home advantage, however, should play into its hands. A quarter-final berth should be regarded as success for John Herdman’s team.

The United States remains the team to beat. The Americans’ World Cup record is second to none and, despite being edged by Japan in a dramatic shootout in the 2011 final, they’ll start as favourites to lift the trophy for a third time. Goal machine Abby Wambach will almost certainly be making her World Cup swansong and will want to finish with a flourish.

Germany will not be far behind. The European champions flattered to deceive at their own Women’s World Cup in 2011 and, as a result, did not qualify for the London Olympics. Normal service has since been resumed — winning the 2013 European title, while the next generation bagged the U-20 World Cup in Canada back in August.

Japan can no longer be regarded as a dark horse. The defending champion has proved it is a match for any team in the women’s game. Having held their nerve to beat the mighty Americans in 2011, the Japanese won a silver medal at the London Olympics, and earlier this year won the Asian Cup for the first time.

Just as the Japanese have emerged to challenge the dominant powers in the women’s game, France is now awaiting its major breakthrough. The French served notice at both the last World Cup and the 2012 Olympics that they have the ability and confidence to unsettle the very best. It should surprise no one if France is still in contention at the semifinal stage.

World Cup veteran Sweden will complete the list of seeded nations. Among the pioneers of the women’s game, the Scandinavians have been ever present at the Women’s World Cup, and a bronze medal in Germany was merely the latest in a succession of near misses.

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