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A fan's guide to FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015

A fan's guide to FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015

Posted by PanamericanWorld on June 05, 2015

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

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

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.

 

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.

This team may not be on par with the likes of group B powerhouse Germany, but they have the experience to carry them to the next phase of the tournament.

 

Thailand

With the expanded World Cup field, Thailand was able to secure a spot in this year’s tournament that they would have been denied four years ago. The Asian Football Confederation was granted two additional berths for this year tournament, increasing from three to five. Thailand was able to snag the fifth and final spot to make it to their first World Cup.

Kanjana Sungngoen took the reigns for the team in April of 2014 to become the first women’s coach in the history of the program. With just over a year under her belt, Sungngoen brought together a young squad that she was acquainted with from her time with Thailand’s youth program. The average age of her team is just 22, meaning many of the players have shared experience on the youth national level.

The team’s strength is their familiarity with one another, which often leads to quick passing in tight spaces. Thailand will likely look to clog the middle with a 4-5-1 or a 5-3-2 formation and rely on a compact defensive performance to carry them in their first World Cup campaign.

 

Group C

June 8

Cameroon vs. Ecuador (live, FOX Sports 2, 7 p.m. ET)

Japan vs. Switzerland (live, FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)

June 12

Switzerland vs. Ecuador (live, FOX Sports 1, 7 p.m. ET)

Japan vs. Cameroon (live, FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)

June 16

Ecuador vs. Japan (live, FOX Sports 1, 5 p.m. ET)

Switzerland vs. Cameroon (live, FOX Sports 2, 5 p.m. ET)

 

Japan

Four years ago, Japan shocked the world by winning the country’s first World Cup. Carrying a nation on their backs, Japan knocked off powerhouse teams with an unmatched technical game that blended fluidity and speed.

The Nadeshiko will be bringing a similar game plan to Canada this summer along with a familiar roster. Veteran playmakers Aya Miyama and Nahomi Kawasumi will return as well as the team’s captain Homare Sawa. While Sawa originally announced her retirement after the 2012 London Games, the 36-year-old midfielder is now making a record sixth World Cup appearance – the most ever for any player, male or female.

While the team does have the ability to rely on the names of a few superstars, team play is the cornerstone of their philosophy. Japan has continued to show that their technical precision can win them games, but now teams have had time to figure a counterplan against the quick passing Nadeshikos. Lacking in size, one perceived weakness is in their physical game; in particular set pieces could become a problem. An organized and disciplined 4-4-2 formation knows that limiting opponents’ chances will be key.

 

Switzerland

Switzerland was the first European team to solidify a spot in this year’s World Cup, in doing so they qualified for their first ever trip to the prestigious tournament.

In Group 3, the Swiss posted an impressive plus 52-goal difference, conceding only one goal (France was the only other team to match such a performance).

Many of the squad’s players have spent time playing in various international leagues. The Swiss captain and defensive centerpiece, Caroline Abbé, has spent four years in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. Midfielder Lara Dickenmann, who led her team with 10 goals in qualifying, currently plays in France for Olympique Lyonnais.

While the team has little experience on the international stage, their coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg found a wealth of success with the German National Team when she played with them. Since taking the helm in 2012, she has implemented a German style offense that finds a way to score goals. Switzerland can produce offence in a variety of ways but has found most success through the counterattack. The Swiss have only been held scoreless once in 24 games dating all the way back to March of 2013.

 

Cameroon

The African nation made its major tournament debut in the 2012 London Games with a disappointing 0-3 finish. While the squad steadily relies on defense, that team conceded eleven goals.

Despite those numbers, head coach Enow Ngachu will continue to rely on the back line and his keeper in the team’s first World Cup. Much pressure will fall on The Lionesses goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom and captain Christine Manie who anchors the defense. Les Lionnes have a physical defensive mindset, which makes them competitors against the group’s expected first place finisher, Japan.

In the 4-3-3 formation, Gaelle Enganamouit leads the attack from the midfield. Enganamouit, who plays her soccer in Sweden, is known for making deep runs out of the midfield to create opportunities.

 

Ecuador

Another newcomer to the tournament, Ecuador has already climbed some steep mountains to make it to Canada. After ending 2012, ranked 125, the team has risen to a manageable 46th heading into the World Cup.

One of the youngest teams in the tournament, with an average age of 22, Head Coach Vanessa Arauz is only 26. Arauz has made great strides in soccer while in Ecuador, as she became the first female to be granted a coaching title.

Ecuador is a team that prides themselves on hard work and sheer determination despite the odds being stacked against them. With a team slogan “Nothing Will Stop Us,” La Tricolors will not be backing down. Ecuador find themselves in a group with two other teams making their World Cup debut. Their determination and grit may allow them to steal a few games.

Ecuador will be gaining some valuable experience that they can bring forward with them. With World Cup savvy coming this summer, the women’s program may see its stock start to rise in their country and the world.

 

Group D

June 8

Sweden vs Nigeria (FOX, 4 p.m. ET)
 USA vs Australia (FOX Sports 1, 7:30 p.m. ET)

June 12

Australia vs Nigeria (FOX Sports 1, 5 p.m. ET)
 USA vs Sweden (FOX, 8 p.m. ET)

June 16

Nigeria vs USA (FOX, 8 p.m. ET) 
Australia vs. Sweden (FOX Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET)

 

U.S.A

In 2011, the U.S. thought they had the best shot to bring home the World Cup, but anything short of a championship this year will be seen as a disappointment in the eyes of players and fans. The U.S. is out to prove they are still the best after a turbulent year that has seen a coaching change, a player suspension and a drop from their dominate first position in FIFA rankings.

 

Australia

The Matildas boast a great mixture of young talent and experience heading into the team’s sixth appearance in the World Cup. In 2011, the average age of the team was 21, With four more years of experience under their belts, they have the skill, stamina and now the confidence to pose a threat in the group of death. After two straight years losing in the quarterfinals, Australia will look to better, or at least match, their previous World Cup performances.

It will be a tall challenge based on their group placement and injuries that have plagued the team. Veteran goalkeeper Lydia Williams (New York Western Flash) suffered a torn ACL last July and is attempting to make her comeback in the World Cup while striker Kyah Simon missed the 2014 season due to a knee injury. Simon recently returned to play with the W-League team Sydney FC. Will either of these players be able to have the impact that Australia will need out of them?

Led by a talented core of players, including 2011 Best Young Player Caitlin Foord, Australia has proven they can hang with the best teams, having narrowly lost Japan in the Asian Cup Finals 1-0. Australia’s greatest strength will be their never say die attitude and fearlessness in the face of the world’s top teams.

They have quality across all three lines but are not at an elite level yet. If they are able to make it out of the group stage, there is a chance for a deep run into the knockout rounds.

 

Sweden

While Sweden has always faired well in international competition, a World Cup title has always eluded them. Sweden has quietly but surely dominated the European scene under the helm of Pia Sundhage, who led the team to ten wins and a plus 31-goal difference in their qualifying campaign.

The team looks poised to make another deep run into the tournament with a solid and dependable veteran core. Nilla Fischer, Caroline Seger and Lotta Schelin provide a great mixture of speed and physical power on all three lines. Sundhage has emphasized that Seger’s play in the midfield will be key to Sweden’s game plan.

One sore spot for the team seems to be their offensive prowess. Despite scoring 32 goals in qualifying, Sundhage believes that Sweden needs to showcase more creativity to create opportunities in the final third. The attack, with the power and pace of Schelin up top, usually calls for a more direct style of play.

Sweden will feature in one of the most prominent group matches of the tournament when they take on the U.S. on June 12. The match will most likely decide who will take first and second in the group of death.

 

Nigeria

Don’t overlook the Super Falcons in Group D. They have dominated the African continent for the past nine years, though they have not faired as well on the international stage.

There are a few special features that make this team a dark horse in their group. Head coach Edwin Okon has selected 11 players that subsequently play together for Nigeria’s top club, the River Angels FC. The team is also one of the few in the tournament that regularly train and play on artificial surfaces.

The team’s biggest strength is their front duo of attackers. Desire Oparanozie and Asisat Oshoala totaled nine goals during the African Championship. Both also have great experience and success at the youth national team levels. Nigeria may not be able to provide consistent pressure in the offensive zone, but Oparanozie and Oshoala can be dangerous with a fast break out on the counterattack.

The team’s biggest problem may be their defense. While the team only gave up three goals in the African World Championship, they have not faced the caliber of offense that the group of death will present. It will be a challenge for Nigeria’s defense to be able to keep pace for a full 90 minutes with their other group opponents.

 

Group E

June 9

Spain vs. Costa Rica (FOX Sports 1, 4 p.m. ET)

Brazil vs. Korea Republic (FOX Sports 1, 7 p.m. ET)

June 13

Brazil vs. Spain (FOX Sports 1, 4 p.m. ET)

Korea Republic vs. Costa Rica (FOX Sports 2, 7 p.m. ET)

June 17

Costa Rica vs. Brazil (FOX Sports 1, 7 p.m. ET)

Korea Republic vs. Spain (FOX Sports 2, 7 p.m. ET)

 

Brazil

After a disastrous end to the men’s World Cup in 2014, the women of Brazil will look to replace the still sour taste with the pride that comes with bringing home the country’s first World Cup title for their women’s team.

While they are always counted among the heavy favorites in the tournament, the team has suffered massive disappointments in the most critical of games. In 2007, they placed second to Germany before losing in that infamous quarterfinal match against the U.S. in 2011.

Once again Brail has high expectations for this year’s tournament. They look good to make it out of the group stage with their skilled and experienced core of veterans.

Little needs to be said about superstar Marta. Teams and fans know what the five time World Player of the Year is capable of, but what is equally impressive is the ensemble of players around her. In the 2014 Copa America Femenina, Brazil secured a first place finish without Marta. This was largely done through the play and leadership of Formiga, Rosana and Cristiane, who scored six goals in the tournament.

Brazil’s style of play has not changed much in recent years. They still relay on a technical flair that most teams cannot match. Head Coach Vadao has added a layer of defense to the team that they have been missing in the past. He has focused the team on possession and a high defensive line.

 

Korea Republic

Korea Republic has only reached this stage once before. The World Cup in 2003 saw an early group stage exit. In 2014, the team took fourth in the Women’s Asia Cup to make it to this year’s tournament.

The team started the Asian Cup on a high note with an uneven score line of 12-0 against Myanmar before a 4-0 win against Thailand. With those two victories, Korea had already booked a ticket to Canada.

Korea depends on the play of Ji So-yun who plays for Chelsea in England and Park Eun Sun. Both are attacking players that will carry the burden of providing for their team. These two players can be dangerous with just enough pace and the confidence to take chances from outside the box.

With Korea recently holding the U.S. to a scoreless draw, this team may be riding into Canada with more confidence then ever.

 

Spain

Spain is one of the most exciting new teams to enter the World Cup this summer with one of the most intriguing players – Vero Boquete.

Spain’s road to the World Cup was an impressive one as the team went undefeated in ten games, scoring 42 goals while only giving up two.

Ignacio Quereda has coached La Roja for 27 years. This year, he is finally getting the opportunity to show his team to the world and neither him nor his players are going to waste their shot. Much like their male counterparts, Spain has a tendency to show off their flair in the attack and possess the ball in the midfield. The team will constantly look for the presence of their captain Boquete in the middle to launch the offense. Boquete is a crafty playmaker that can work the field with the four other midfielders that will be set up around her.

They will need to be careful with the defensive side of their game. The back line has shown cracks in the past when facing bigger and stronger opposition. This could be a problem when facing set pieces.

 

Costa Rica

Costa Rica saw its men’s team make an impressive and surprising deep run into the 2014 World Cup and the women’s side look to do just the same. They have already shown determination and grit in the CONCACAF championship where they took second place.

Las Ticas have a versatile attack that can use their technical gifts to get in behind a defense or choose a more direct style of play. They are not a team that looks to park the bus in front of their net. They want to be active on the attack and create opportunities for themselves. The PSG midfielder Shirley Cruz is often in the middle of those chances.

They also have a dependable and gifted goalkeeper. Dinnia Diaz stood out in CONCACAF qualifying after she made an impressive three saves in a shootout against Trinidad and Tobago. She sits behind an organized backline that focuses on getting the ball out of their end and working their way up the pitch.

 

Group F

June 10

France vs. England (FOX, 1 p.m. ET)

Colombia vs. Mexico (FOX Sports 1, 4 p.m. ET)

June 11

France vs. Colombia (FOX, 1 p.m. ET)

England vs. Mexico (FOX, 4 p.m. ET)

June 17

Mexico vs. France (FOX, 4 p.m. ET)

England vs. Colombia (FOX Sports 1, 4 p.m. ET)

 

France

In recent years, France has proven that they’re a force to be reckoned with and in only their third Women’s World Cup appearance they are legitimate contenders for the title. France steamrolled through their qualifying tournament outscoring opponents 54-3 and are led by the striking duo of Louisa Necib and Gaetane Thiney.

France has built their team on a technical game plan that bolsters the midfield and then breaks out with explosive flank play. Despite superb individual talents, France moves into the final third as a unified attacking force, which may be credited to many players competing in the domestic league.

This team does not need to be near the net to create offensive chances. Les Bleus are not afraid to take shots from 18 plus yards out. In 2011, the team recorded a tournament leading 71 shots from outside the penalty area, with 32 percent of them on target. Those tendencies are not likely to change this summer.

Les Bleus’ defense often closes ranks to stifle an oppositions’ offense. Laura Georges and Wendie Renard are a physical pair that are not afraid to put their bodies on the line. On set pieces, Renard’s 6-foot-2 stature will come in handy.

 

England

Three times England has been knocked out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals stage. This year they look to improve upon that performance in Canada this summer. Ranked number 6 in the world, England has always been just outside of elite status. They will look to claim a spot among global powerhouses such as the U.S., Germany and Sweden this summer.

The Three Lions bring an interesting mix of young talent and veteran leadership. The squad is bringing four players (Fara Williams, Alex Scott, Karen Carney and Casey Stone) that have acquired over 100 caps and all play their club soccer in England.

England plays with a 4-2-3-1 formation that is led by the talented Eniola Aluko who scored 13 goals in qualifying play. England, a team who likes to play through their midfielders and playmakers, is a powerful team that likes to create scoring opportunities out of nothing. Head Coach Mark Sampson has brought a more technical and creative side to the team so look for his team to hold possession and create chances through the middle of the field this summer.

 

Colombia

In only their second Women’s World Cup appearance, Colombia was the only unbeaten team in group play at the 2014 Copa America Femenina.

Colombia possesses plenty of speed and physicality on the flanks and they like to take a majority of their shots from outside the 18-yard line. Twenty-one-year-old Yoreli Rincon is a young attacking midfielder and a gifted creator that leads their offense along with striker Lady Andrade.

No doubt Colombia’s great strength is a resilient and very physical backline. They will attempt to quickly push the ball out wide and use pace to get into the final third.

 
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