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Friday, June 24, 2011
ESPNsoccernet: June 27, 4:51 PM UK
Women's World Cup 2011 - Group D

Mark Lomas

Group D: Brazil | Australia | Norway | Equatorial Guinea
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D |

Group D

BRAZIL

Coach: Kleiton Lima
Captain: Aline
Nickname: As Canarinhas ('The Canaries'), Samba Queens
World Cup best: Runners-up (2007) A side oozing with individual talent, Brazil have as yet been unable to match the enduring team cohesion that makes Germany stand above the rest in the women's game. It is a quality that gave the Europeans the edge over their South American opponents in the final four years ago but the Samba Queens nonetheless captured the imagination at the 2007 finals with their laissez-faire style, of which the phenomenal Marta was the most carefree proponent. The goals continued to flow in a comfortable, unbeaten qualifying campaign but question marks remain over the defensive discipline of Kleiton Lima's side. While no-one would suggest the abandonment of the zealous attacking principles that have led to inevitable comparisons with their male counterparts, a greater focus on stability at the back is necessary if Brazil are to go a step further and emulate the men by actually winning the World Cup. Player to watch: Marta. The five-time World Player of the Year is expected to light up the global stage again with her breathtaking skills, fearless dribbling and eye for a spectacular goal. Able to evade even the most commanding of defenders, Marta is the most famous female footballer on the planet and her stock could rise still further if she can lead Brazil to glory in Germany. The Western New York Flash forward was the top scorer at the 2007 World Cup with seven goals and will be desperate to make up for her penalty miss in the final. Trivia: Brazil coach Kleiton Lima used to work as a scout for former men's national team boss Carlos Alberto Parreira and, alongside his role with As Canarinhas, he also manages Santos' ladies team, who he guided to the 2010 Women's Copa Libertadores title. Prediction: Final.

AUSTRALIA

Coach: Tom Sermanni
Captain: Melissa Barbieri
Nickname: Matildas
World Cup record: Quarter-finals (2007) Australia have been one of the World Cup's ever-presents since 1995, but it took them 12 years to record their first victory at the finals. A 4-1 victory over Ghana in the Matildas' opening game of the 2007 tournament helped drive them through to a first appearance in the last eight, where they showed superb spirit to battle back from two goals down before eventually succumbing 3-2 to Brazil. Under the guidance of the popular Scottish-born coach Tom Sermanni, Australia have been on an upward curve and they reached a new zenith last year when a shoot-out triumph over North Korea delivered a first AFC Women's Asian Cup - Australia's first piece of continental silverware in the men's or women's game. Though some experienced players have retired in recent years, the Matildas can boast plenty of dynamic new talent and pace in abundance with the likes of Kyah Simon and Sam Kerr. Player to watch: Lisa Marie De Vanna. The finals may provide prodigious teenage striker Kerr with an opportunity to flourish in front of the watching world, but it is Washington Freedom striker De Vanna who will be Australia's most dangerous weapon. Now fully recovered from a broken leg that frustrated her throughout in 2010, she has the raw pace to trouble the best back-lines and will relish a regular starting berth; at the 2007 finals, De Vanna scored four goals but was mainly restricted to a super-sub role. Trivia: The Matildas' all-time leading scorer Cheryl Salisbury - 38 goals in 151 games - became the first woman to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Champions after her retirement in 2009. Prediction: Group stage exit.

NORWAY

Coach: Eli Landsem
Captain: Ingvild Stensland
Nickname: Gresshoppene ('Grasshoppers')
World Cup record: Winners (1995) Norway have a proud record in women's football having won the World Cup, European Championship (twice) and Olympic gold medal, and the Gresshoppene have a magnificent record in major finals - reaching at least the quarter-finals at all 19 major championships in which they have ever competed. The 2007 World Cup had looked promising for Norway but a 3-0 defeat to Germany - whom they beat to win the 1995 tournament - in the semi-finals and 4-1 loss to USA in the third-place play-off ensured their visit to China ended in bitter disappointment. Eli Landsem became the Gresshoppene's first female coach in 2009 and was tasked with picking up the pieces after another semi-final exit at the hands of the Germans at the European Championship. She guided them comfortably through qualifying and they are sure to be contenders again. Player to watch: Cecilie Pedersen. At the tender age of 20, the Avaldsnes IL striker is one of the highest paid women in Norwegian football and it's easy to see why: her predatory instincts have seen her become one of European football's hottest properties and she won Norway's most prestigious prize, the Gullballen (Golden Ball), in 2009 despite playing for a second division side. Trivia: While many point to Norway's 1995 World Cup triumph as the pinnacle of the women's national team success, their gold medal success at the 2000 Sydney Olynpics was arguably a more impressive achievement as then world champions USA were beaten 3-2 with an extra-time goal from Dagny Mellgren deciding a captivating encounter Prediction: Quarter-finals

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Coach: Marcelo Frigerio
Captain: Florence Okoe
Nickname: Nzalang Nacional
World Cup record: First appearance
Player to watch: Genoveva Anonma The African minnows hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in the week leading up to the tournament by dropping sisters Salimata and Bilguisa Simpore in the wake of Ghanaian players raising serious questions about the pair's gender. But attentions will turn back to the pitch when the Nzalang Nacional kick-off their first ever World Cup campaign and the tiny nation look to make a big noise on the global football stage. Football in Equatorial Guinea is rapidly improving in popularity and the women's team have played a major role in raising the sport's profile, with manager Marcelo Frigerio recently explaining that "the players are idols and greeted like stars after each match". A shock 2008 Women's African Championships triumph did wonders for the players' reputations and a number of them secured moves to Brazil soon after the continental triumph. Player to watch: Geneoveva Anonma. It's not often that a 22-year-old can claim to be a nine-year veteran of their national team but Anonma is one such rare case. The forward made her debut at 13 and has been a regular for her country since 1992. One of the few players with European experience, Anonma has just been snapped up by German giants and 2010 UEFA Women's Champions League winners 1.FFC Turbine Potsdam. Former Spain Under-19 Jade Boho striker is also an excellent finisher and likely to have an important role to play. Trivia: Despite being one of the continent's smallest countries with a population of just over 650,000, Equatorial Guinea are the only nation to have ever prevented Nigeria from winning the African Women's Championship having triumphed over the Super Falcons in 2008. Prediction: Group stage exit.


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