Women's World Cup: Five to watch
Group of death
That moniker is earned by the group considered toughest in soccer draws, and in this World Cup there’s no debate. The Americans, ranked No.??1 by world governing body FIFA, play in Group B, which has two other top-five teams, 2003 runnerup Sweden (No.??3) and North Korea (No.??5). The fourth is Nigeria, the African champion. The group is identical to 2003, when the Americans and Swedes advanced.
(Pictured: U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo. AP photo.)
Show that again, please
Since the tournament is in China, the games are on at 8 a.m. Eastern — except for the really early ones which are at 5 a.m. For instance, the first U.S. match is today at 5 a.m. in Chengdu against North Korea. So unless you picked up the Times right as it hit your doorstep, you might have missed it. Not to worry, it’s on again at 5 p.m. on ESPN Classic and at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. ESPN will rebroadcast games throughout the tournament.
The likely starter in goal for the U.S. team is Hope Solo, who has had most of the starts the past three years but is making her World Cup debut. She played 18 matches last year and was 14-0-4 and at one point had a streak of 1,054 minutes without allowing a goal. Should she falter, Brianna Scurry, one of two remaining players from the 1999 champions, is also on the team.
If this were the men’s World Cup, the Fleet Street tabloids would be salivating. England, which qualified for the first time since 1995, was drawn into Group A with two rivals that tend to rile up fans on the other side of the Atlantic — Germany and Argentina. Germany is the defending champion to boot.
(Pictured: Fireworks are displayed over the Hongkou Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Women's World Cup Monday in Shanghai, China.)
China at last?
China was supposed to host the 2003 World Cup until the SARS outbreak forced officials to hurriedly move the event to the United States. China has experienced a little of everything in World Cup history — hosting the inaugural event in 1991, fourth place in ’95, runnerup in ’99 — except for one thing: winning the trophy. Are the hosts as resilient as their nickname, “The Steel Roses,” would indicate?
U.S. schedule, Group B
vs. North Korea, 5 a.m. Monday, Chengdu
vs. Sweden, 5 a.m. Friday, Chengdu
vs. Nigeria, 8 a.m. Sept. 18, Shanghai
-- Jim Tomlin, Times staff writer