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History lesson

Key quarterfinal matchups set for Wednesday, Thursday

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Posted: Wednesday June 30, 1999 03:27 PM

  Cecilla Sandell (7) and the Swedes will have to watch out for Norway's experience and physical play. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- When FIFA organized the Women's World Cup, it couldn't have set up better matchups than what's in store for the quarterfinals.

How about Russia vs. China? Norway against Sweden? The United States and Germany? Historically strong rivals, although they have little history in soccer.

Yet the best of the second-round games could be Nigeria vs. Brazil, featuring two of the most creative offenses in women's soccer.

"I know the style of Brazil, and I'm going to present a very good strategy to counter," coach Ismaila Mabo said. "We shall do our best to win the match against Brazil Thursday."

The quarterfinal matchups:

Wednesday: China vs. Russia; San Jose, Calif.

The Chinese have two victories over the United States this year. They were formidable with a 7-0 rout of Ghana in the opening round. Rarely were they tested, although their opener with Sweden was spotty.

China might be the most balanced team, and it has an outstanding goalkeeper in Gao Hong. The Chinese have not finished below second in an important international event since 1995.

Russia, a relative newcomer in the women's game, advanced from the weakest group. The Russians showed firepower in beating Canada 4-1 and Japan 5-0. They lost 2-1 to Norway, the defending champion.

Norway vs. Sweden

The Swedes usually play Norway close, but lose. The Norwegians are more physical and experienced, which often is the difference between the Scandinavian neighbors.

Norway scored 13 goals and yielded two in the first round. It hit stride after the close but convincing victory against Russia. Captain Linda Medalen broke her nose against Japan and her status is uncertain.

The Swedes don't have much offense and will probably lay back and hope for a break.

Thursday: United States vs. Germany; Landover, Md.

The Germans, who finished second to Norway in 1995, play a physical and almost mechanical game. They don't have a lot of flair, but they don't usually need it.

That could bother the Americans, who prefer a more freewheeling opponent. The Germans' ruggedness hurt them in the final seconds against Brazil, sending them into this matchup.

"I've watched film of the Germans many times and have found things they do that we have put into our game," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "They are a very formidable opponent."

So are the Americans. If they can handle the rough stuff, they have more options on attack. But the United States needs a quicker start than it had in any of the three first-round games. Brazil vs. Nigeria

Brazil vs. Nigeria

Did someone say 8-7 in extra time? The outcome could come down to the last possession.

The Brazilians have a vastly superior defense and a flair for just about everything, including last-second goals.

Brazil could be bothered by Nigeria's fouling, especially if scoring leader Sissi is targeted. If the officiating tight, that could be the key.

 
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