A Guide to the Cup
Which games and players to watch, and which team will win
Posted: Tuesday September 4, 2007 11:24AM; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2007 12:16PM
Group of Death
The U.S. is ranked No. 1 in the world, but this tournament isn't March Madness: Top seeds aren't guaranteed an early walkover or two. The Americans' first opponent, No. 5 North Korea, is tough to scout because it plays infrequently, but U.S. coach Greg Ryan has seen enough to know that it will be "the most mobile team we've ever played." The U.S. then faces No. 3 Sweden, which in Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson has two of the best goal scorers in the tournament. And the Yanks' final opponent, No. 24 Nigeria, is the most athletic outfit in the 16-team field, Ryan says, "in terms of speed and physical power."
Games to Watch
Argentina vs. England, Sept. 17: These countries just don't like each other. They'll meet in the final match of Group A -- and a spot in the knockout round could be on the line.
Brazil vs. China, Sept. 15: Brazil gave the U.S. all it could handle at the 2004 Olympics -- and then didn't play for two years. The effect of the layoff was evident: The Brazilians and striker Cristiane struggled in qualifying. China, a 1999 Cup finalist that has had trouble developing talent since, will likely need a win or a tie against Brazil to advance.
Players to Watch
Renate Lingor, midfielder, Germany: The playmaker, who finished third in the 2006 FIFA Player of the Year voting, set up the winning goals in the semis and the final in 2003.
Solveig Gulbrandsen, midfielder, Norway: After taking a year off to care for her newborn son, she returned this summer -- and had three goals in No. 4 Norway's first two Euro qualifying games.
First round (top two teams advance)