Group A / Women's World Cup

World Cup Preview: GROUP A

Teams:  Canada, China PR, New Zealand and the Netherlands

Group A has one favorite to escape the group but the picture gets pretty murky after that. It also provides a solid group of underdogs:  Canada looking for redemption after 2011, China looking to return to form, the Netherlands looking to make an impression in their first World Cup and New Zealand shooting to move to the knockout stage for the first time.  Canada, the host nation and strongest of the group, is poised to make it out of the group stage. But between New Zealand, China and the Netherlands, it’s anyone’s guess which team will join them in the Round of 16.

World ranking: 8
Last World Cup: 2011, 4th in group
Best World Cup finish: 4th, 2003


Players to watch: F Christine Sinclair, M  Sophie Schmidt, M Diana Matheson

Four years ago, John Herdman wasn’t behind the bench during Canada’s horrendous collapse on the world stage in Germany. As the host nation prepares to rebound it must do so with an aging lineup and injuries to key midfielder Diana Matheson.

Captain Christine Sinclair boasts the most experience for Canada having played in the last three World Cups. The forward leads Canada’s attack and is one of the most vaunted strikers in the world. The offensive powerhouse has scored 153 goals, third-most in international soccer history behind Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.

With Diana Matheson on the mend recovering from an ACL tear and a broken foot, midfielder Sophie Schmidt will be looked upon by Herdman to step up in a playmaking role. Despite Matheson’s injuries, Canada is still the favorite in Group A to reach the round of 16.

Key Match-up: June 6: Canada vs. China (FOX Sports 1, 6 p.m. ET)

Canada’s opening match against China will set the tone in Group A, and for the entire tournament. In 2011, Canada opened against host nation Germany to the tune of a 2-1 loss and went on to lose their final two group matches. A win against China could cement Canada’s place as one of the top teams in the tournament.


World ranking: 12
Last World Cup: Did not qualify
Best World Cup finish:  N/A


Players to watch: F Manon Melis, M Sherida Spitse, F Vivianne Miedema

This year marks the first-ever appearance in a World Cup for the Dutch national team, and with it comes a new set of expectations. Group A features two teams who did not qualify for the previous World Cup. The Dutch narrowly qualified, beating out Italy and Scotland in the UEFA playoffs. Led by veteran forward Manon Melis, who has over 100 caps in 11 years with the national team, the Netherlands will look to break through to the knockout stage.

Key Match-up: June 15: Netherlands vs. Canada (FOX Sports 1, 7:30 p.m. ET)

A win against the favorites in the group would likely somersault the Dutch into the knockout stage. Their match against Canada is also their last match in the group stage which has the possibility to be the make-it-or-break-it game – for both teams.


World ranking: 16
Last World Cup: 2007, quarterfinalist. 2011, Did not qualify
Best World Cup finish: Runner-up, 1999


Players to watch: M Ma Jun, GK Zhang Yue, F Yang Li

Despite failing to qualify in 2011, China has never finished lower than the quarterfinals. Led by head coach Hao Wei, China has the youngest team in Group A, with only six players on the roster older than 24. On its trip to the World Cup, top offensive threat Yang Li scored a tournament-high 6 goals to help China finish in third place in the AFC Cup.

Key Match-up: June 6: Canada vs. China (FOX Sports 1, 6 p.m. ET)

The tournament’s opening match has a different reason of importance for China. The Chinese will look to upset the host nation. A victory over Canada would increase China’s chances of reaching the group stage along with putting the focus on the host nation with a hope to unravel the Canadian side


new-zealandNew Zealand
World ranking: 17
Last World Cup: 2011, 4th in group
Best World Cup 4th in group three times.


Players to watch: D Ali Riley, F Amber Hearn, F Hannah Wilkinson

While New Zealand has yet to win a game in the World Cup, this year the team boasts a roster that could make it out of the group stage. University of Tennessee striker Hannah Wilkinson brings youth to New Zealand’s group of forwards and will be a noble addition paired with the more experienced Amber Hearn.

Defender Ali Riley has the most international experience for the club having played in last two Olympics and World Cups. Women’s soccer fans in the United States should may remember the speedy outside back who featured in WPS for FC Gold Price (2010) and Western New York (2011)

Key Match-up: June 15: China vs. New Zealand (FOX Sports 2, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Their final game against China will be the most important match for the Kiwis. In their brief World Cup history, the team has never come better than last place in the group stage. A win or draw against China would keep the club above fourth place and could see New Zealand make its first appearance in the knockout stage.


Complete Group A Schedule:

June 6:  Canada vs. China, 6 p.m. ET
June 6:  New Zealand vs. the Netherlands, 9 p.m. ET

June 11:  China vs. the Netherlands, 6 p.m. ET
June 11:  Canada vs. New Zealand, 9 p.m. ET

June 15:  the Netherlands vs. Canada, 7:30 p.m. ET
June 15:  China vs. New Zealand, 7:30 p.m. ET

Predicted finish in group:  Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, China


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