2015 World Cup: Group A Preview

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It’s time for us to all get excited as the 2015 Women’s World Cup is about to kick off and we proudly present to you our Group A preview.

The Football Sack’s Group A preview

Canada

Road to Canada

It was a very short road to Canada for the Canadian national women’s football team. After being announced as the hosts of the tournament, Canada didn’t have to participate in any of the qualification matches that led up to the World Cup.

Pressure will be on the home side to deliver and not relive the horrors of their past campaigns in the Women’s World Cup. Nightmares still haunt Canada when they think about their 2011 campaign which for off to the worst possible start when their key forward Christine Sinclair ended up with a broken nose in the opening match and things did not get any better.

More recently, Canada’s preparations for the World Cup included a friendly match against France on April 9 which they lost 1-0. They also have another upcoming friendly match scheduled against England.

Manager

John Herdman has had previous experience coaching at a national level prior to taking the Canadian reigns. He coached the New Zealand women’s national football team for six years before joining Les Rouges in 2011.

That same year Herdman guided them to a gold medal in the Pan American Games in Mexico followed by a bronze at the London Olympics. Herdman has so far had the experience to lead the Canadian football team to respectability on the world stage but the big question is will he be able to lead the nation to glory on its home turf?

Key Players

Striker and attacking midfielder Christine Sinclair currently plays at Portland Thorns and was first selected for Canada in 2000. Since then she has made 222 appearances and scored a spectacular 153 goals making her a national football icon while winning the Canadian Player of the Year award in her debut international year and the consecutively from 2004 until 2013.

Sinclair is notoriously remembered in the last World Cup for the broken nose incident with the national team but her goals outweigh the tragedy. Sinclair was with the national team when they placed fourth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2003 and with a vast amount of experience will be Canada’s leader on the pitch.

Similarly, veteran defender Rhian Wilkinson has been a strong part of Canada’s history making 151 appearances. Wilkinson has experienced almost all the positions on the field and still technically has time to become a goal keeper. Wilkinson also plays at Portland Thorns.

Fact you didn’t know
Defensive midfielder Desiree Scott is known as “the destroyer”.

Verdict
There are two things to consider when looking at how Canada will go in the group stage. Firstly, they are the highest ranked country in the group. Secondly, they have the home team advantage. It is almost certain that Canada will be towards the top end of the table during this stage of their campaign but I do predict a surprise upset by the Netherlands.

China

Road to Canada

After failing to qualify in 2011 and their best performance etched deep into the past, China are in a phase of rebuilding not only their squad but their identity and have chosen to field a number of young players in the hopes that this will rejuvenate their squad.

The Steel Roses had very mixed results during their qualification route to the World Cup via the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup where they finished the competition in third place. China started off really positive with a 7-0 win against Thailand but followed that with a 3-0 defeat by Myanmar before regrouping and finishing the group with a 0-0 draw against Korea Republic.

China lost the eventual champions Japanin the semi-final before defeating Korea Republic in the third-place play-off.

The mixed results in their journey to the World Cup could be somewhat of an indication to how they could go in the tournament. China recently had a friendly in preparation for the World Cup against US side Seattle Reign – featuring Western Sydney Wanderers Player of the Year Keelin Winters – which they drew 1-1.

Manager

Hao Wei joined the Chinese national team as an assistant after spending time coaching at Changsha Ginde. After the side failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, the incumbent head coach was sacked and Hao Wei was promoted into the position where he has led them to third place at the 2014 Asian Cup and qualification for Canada.

Key Players

Yang Li recently made her mark on the Asian stage after scoring six goals in the 2014 Asian Cup and currently plays for club Jiangsu Huatai. Midfielder Gu Yasha at only 24 years of age has the highest amount of caps for the national team and currently plays for Beijing BG. Gu Yasha was not selected in the 2014 Asian Cup so it will be interesting to see what role she plays in the World Cup.

Fact you didn’t know

If you’re watching China play and you think Messi is on the field, you may not be mistaken. Xu Yanlu is nicknamed “Little Messi” by her team mates for her speed, ball control and even her haircut.

Verdict

China didn’t qualify very confidently into the World Cup and it seems that their team lacks the experience to be confident at this level of football. Much will rely on the young players evolving during the tournament but 2015 may be a bit too soon for them to qualify from the group.

New Zealand
Road to Canada

The Football Ferns have practically waltzed into the World Cup in comparison to some of the other nations as they only had to play three matches to qualify.

These matches were against Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands with the Football Ferns winning all three with a combined score of 30-0.

Manager

It will be a grudge match of sorts as Tony Readings took over the Ferns in 2011 when John Herdmann departed to coach Canada. As a player, Readings played for clubs such as AFC Wimbledon and North Shore United. Readings has had experience coaching at the national level, previously coaching the under U20’s.

Key Players

Defender Abby Erceg is a familiar face for Australian women’s football supporters as she was part of Adelaide United’s W-League side for three seasons. The captain is the first New Zealander to reach 100 caps for the national team. Erceg currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars and will be the experience the New Zealand team need to be guided through this tough group.

Fellow veteran Amber Hearn was New Zealand’s highest goal scorer in their qualification route scoring seven goals in three matches. In 2003 Hearn was New Zealand’s player of the year and in the 2010 OFC Women’s Championship she won the golden boot with 12 goals. Hearn plays at FF USV Jena and it is almost certain that she will find the back of the goal during the group stage of the competition.

Fact you didn’t know

The fern is the symbol of honour in New Zealand which is why most professional sporting clubs wear it with pride. It comes from a Maori legend that the silver fern once lived in the sea until it was asked to come live in the forest and play a role in guiding the Maori people.

Verdict

Due to the very stiff competition in the group it feels as though New Zealand will be unable to have any chance of topping the table. Their team is without question good enough for the World Cup but it will be very surprising to see them walk away with even a point.

Netherlands

Road to Canada

It was a long and windy journey for the Netherlands who had an excruciatingly long qualification route into the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Dutch were in put into Group Five in the UEFA qualification competition and finished second on the table under Norway. As a result they progressed to the play-off stage that saw them play Scotland over two legs finishing with an aggregate score of 4-1.

They then proceeded into the final when they were matched up against Italy. The home tie saw a 1-1 draw but the away leg proved to be the clincher for the Dutch as they won 2-1 and qualified for the World Cup.

Manager

Roger Reijners is the quintessential player-turned-manager. As a player he made 225 appearances for Fortuna Sittard and 101 appearances for MVV. Once retiring as a player he joined the coaching staff at MVV and later moved back to his very first club to be manager. In 2010 he was appointed coach of the Netherlands women’s national team and things have been on the up for the Dutch ever since.

Key Players

Vivianne Miedema is the player to watch in Group A as at only 18 years of age she has become one of the strongest forces in the Netherlands forward pack. Miedema’s senior career began in 2011 with SC Heerevan before she was snatched up by current club Bayern Munich where she has made 17 appearances and scored seven goals.

At the national level, Miedema has scored 19 goals since her debut three years ago and more recently is remembered for her hat trick in 15 minutes against Portugal in the group stage of the qualifiers.

Young talent won’t be the only thing on display by the Netherlands with Manon Melis providing the much needed experience to the national team since her selection in 2004. Melis has made 123 appearances for the Netherlands and currently plays at Kopparbergs/Göteborg in Sweden.

Fact you didn’t know

Their kit looks scarily like Brisbane Roar’s.

Verdict

The mix of young players seemed to have provided the spark in their windy journey in qualifying for the Women’s World Cup. With the amount of ammunition up front don’t be surprised to see them upset Canada to top the group.

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Jessica Csaszar
Jessica joined the team for 2014 covering Western Sydney Wanderers in the Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League.

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