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U.S., Brazil will fly into semis

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Posted: Thursday July 01, 1999 11:12 AM

With the Women's World Cup moving into the single-elimination rounds, caught up with Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl, who handicapped the field. Wahl makes his picks and explains that, even though the tendency is to play more conservative in the one-and-done rounds, run-and-gun soccer isn't dead yet. The first round of the tournament seemed to follow conventional wisdom, especially for the U.S. But were there any surprises that may indicate which teams will move into the semis?

Grant Wahl: The only thing that was dodgy was the group with Brazil and Germany. That was the so-called Group of Death and Germany was the No. 1 seed in that group. Germany ended up being the only No. 1 seed not to win its group. After its 3-3 tie with Brazil, Germany gets the U.S. in the quarters instead of getting a chance at them in the semis and Brazil avoids the U.S. for another round. So that was about the most interesting thing group-wise. I do have to pat myself on the back for picking Brazil to win that group. Brazil is a great team, the U.S. is going to have its hands full if they end up meeting in the semis.

CNN/ We're hearing that Brazil's game against Nigeria could be among the highest-scoring games of the tournament. How do you see this game in terms of goal scoring?

Wahl: Well, both teams have great attackers and play very little defense. It could be the first game in which you see double-digit number of goals scored. Brazil has two great scorers. Sissi has six goals and is leading goal scorer in the tournament. She just has great moves, and is probably the best player in the tournament so far. They also have Pretinha , who is a great scorer for them up front also, and has three goals in the tournament.

The main problem with Brazil is that in the back, they aren't very organized and they can be scored upon -- as Germany pointed out. A good thing for the fans and a bad thing for the teams is that no one sits on leads here. You don't see, like in the men's World Cup, a team get a goal and pull everyone back. In the Women's World Cup, especially teams like Brazil and Nigeria, they'll get up a goal and just send more people forward. That's great for the fans, but teams end up giving up leads a lot of the time.

I saw Nigeria play in Chicago against the U.S. and they are a really, really poor defensive team, about the worst defensive team I've ever seen -- at any level. I don't think all of sudden they'll get organized. My guess is Brazil will win that game something on the order of 6-3.

CNN/ Germany wasn't able to avoid the U.S. after giving up that late goal against Brazil. How much trouble will the Germans give the U.S.?

Wahl: I have a feeling it's going to be a blowout. I think Germany has underperformed and the U.S. really plays well with the crowd behind it. It depends on how Germany comes out -- if they play the U.S. straight up, I think the U.S. is just going to kill them, I really do. But if they do what North Korea did and put a lot of defenders back in their own box, it could take the U.S. a while to score, just like it did against North Korea.

I think there are really only four teams that have a chance to win right now -- the U.S., China, Norway and Brazil. And I think the U.S. and China are by far the two favorites to get to the final.

To send a question to Grant Wahl's mailbag click here, and check back each to read his answers.

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Previous Wahl Q and A: No easy week for favorites
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