Which games and players to watch, and which team will
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
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.