The United States Women’s National Team kicks off their 2015 World Cup campaign on Monday against Australia. While the Yanks are favorites to take the whole cup, they’ll first have to make it out of the group stage. Here’s a breakdown of all four teams in Group D.
FIFA Rank: 2
The United States has a score to settle. After losing the 2011 World Cup in PKs against Japan, the team is hungry for a trophy. They did get one at the 2012 Summer Olympics, but want a World Cup on the shelf. They are considered one of the favorites for this year’s champion, with a star-studded roster. International women’s soccer’s all-time leading goalscorer, Abby Wambach (182 goals) will lead the US attack, while Hope Solo guards between the posts. The squad also includes veterans like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd and Christie Rampone, the only player on the team from 1999’s championship squad. Christen Press and Sydney LeRoux will also be making the World Cup debuts. Basically, keep an eye on the entire US team.
June 8, 2015 – 7:30 P.M. E.T.
FIFA Rank: 10
Australia will look to improve its record from the past two World Cup tournaments, where they finished in the quarterfinal round. Since the last World Cup, Australia notched a second place finish in last year’s Asian Cup and won 12 out of their last 18 games. The Australian team features Caitlin Foord, the Best Young Player at the 2011 World Cup and veteran striker Kyah Simon, who recently returned from injury. However, not everyone on the squad is healthy. Starting goalkeeper Lydia Williams (currently with the NWSL’s Western New York Flash) is in a race against time with her ACL rehab. The veteran should be ready for this tournament, but whether she’ll be at 100% is yet to be determined.
June 12, 2015 – 8:00 P.M. E.T.
FIFA Rank: 5
Recognize the name Pia Sundhage? She led the Yanks to their second-place World Cup finish in 2011. Now, she’s coaching the Swedes, who have lost 20 of their 35 past matchups with the United States. Their most recent success came in a semifinal finish in the UEFA Women’s Euro Cup in 2013, when the team lost 1-0 to Germany. They also finished in fourth place at the 2012 Olympic Games. Players to watch include attacking midfielder Kosovare Asslani, who will make her World Cup debut, and veterans Caroline Seger and Therese Sjogran.
June 16, 2015 – 8:00 P.M. E.T.
FIFA Rank: 33
Typically, expectations for Nigeria at the World Cup have been low. The team has qualified for seven World Cups, but only made it out of the group stage once in 1999, when they lost in the quarterfinal. However, the recent success of the U-20 team in their World Cup (a loss to Germany in the final) has caused expectations to rise. The MVP and Golden Boot winner from that tournament, Asisat Oshoala, also won MVP at Namibia’s African Women’s Championships. In that tournament, striker Desire Oparanozie claimed the Golden Boot, so keep an eye on the front of this 4-4-2.
The United States and Sweden should definitely make it out of the group. If the scoring breaks down so that a third team escapes Group D, expect it to be Australia, not Nigeria. For a live bracket,