Women's World Cup group preview
A look at each of the groups in the 2011 Women's World Cup:
Group A opens with what promises to be a zinger: Germany versus Canada inside a sold out Olympic Stadium in Berlin. As reigning European champions and winners of the last two World Cups, the Germans are expected to make it three in a row on home soil with Canada, transformed under Carolina Morace, hot on their heels. Nigeria, dominant in Africa, has only escaped the groups once in the past five tournaments, but France is well positioned to take advantage of any slip-ups from the two favorites.
On current form, you would tip Japan and England to move in to the knockout stages, but there's a lingering sense that anything could happen in Group B -- Japan has a one in five success rate reaching the quarterfinals, England is unpredictable at tournaments, Mexico proved capable of an upset against the U.S. in November and though New Zealand endured a chastening World Cup experience four years ago, the setup has been transformed since.
The Group of Death (three of the world's top eight sides in one pool) is also the Group of Déjà vu: this the third time in a row that the U.S., Korea and Sweden have been drawn together in the World Cup groups -- and even in 1999, U.S. and Korea were picked together, too. The U.S. came out on top every time, and despite the caution (some might call it negativity) that has characterized a lot of talk about this U.S. side ahead of the finals, it looks like U.S. plus one other to reach the knockouts.
An interesting group, this. Though Brazil and Norway are strongly fancied to top the table, no one can be quite sure how much of a threat Australia poses, which makes July 3 -- when the favorites meet in Wolfsburg shortly after Equatorial Guinea takes on the Matildas in Bochum -- an important day.