Japan was the winner of the last FIFA Women’s Cup played in 2011. Can they do it again?
Japan will play its first match against the new-comer, Switzerland on June 8 (see your local time).
Coach Norio Sasaki believes his players have got even better since then, which suggests the Swiss could be in for a baptism of fire in their very first FIFA Women’s World Cup outing.
Final Qualifying Round
Japan beat Italy 1-0 on Thursday in their final warm-up game before jetting off to Canada to defend their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ title.
German-based striker Yuki Ogimi scored the winner seven minutes into the second half in mountainous Nagano as the home side finally broke through after a frustrating start. It was the Wolfsburg player’s 53rd goal in 117 games for her country.
“We know it won’t be easy to retain the World Cup but that’s our ultimate aim,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki told reporters. “It will be a tough ask but we will give everything to lift the trophy again.”
Japan, who will be favourites to top a group also involving Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador, produced an astonishing upset to win the World Cup four years ago, beating USA in the Final. Sasaki’s side added last year’s AFC Asian Cup title after settling for silver at the 2012 London Olympics, where the Americans took revenge for their defeat in Frankfurt.
Strong Swiss Team
Switzerland won nine of its ten matches to qualify. There are players to watch such as Ramona Bachmann and Lara Dickenmann. Which countries did Switzerland beat to qualify? The 2015 FIFA Women’s . The Swiss were the top qualifiers having played Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Malta and Serbia.
The other matches
Cameroon-Ecuador, Vancouver, 8 June, 16.00 local time
Ecuador beats Paraguay, Venezuela, Argentina and Peru to qualify.
The opening match in Group C pits two tournament newcomers against each other. Neither side will lack motivation in striving for three precious and historic points. Cameroon beat South Africa, Ghana and N
Les Lionnes have arrived in Canada as the African runners-up, which the South Americans took a more circuitous route to the finals, edging out Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in a play-off to book their place.
USA-Australia, Winnipeg, 8 June, 18.30 local time
While Japan are the clear favourites in Group C, fellow heavyweights USA look to have a tougher task in Group D, where Sweden, who finished third at Germany 2011, will provide them with stiff opposition in the fight for top spot. The Americans begin their challenge against an Australia side that finished runners-up in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and reached the quarter-finals at the last two women’s world finals. On their one and only previous meeting, which came nearly 20 years ago, the Stars and Stripes emerged 4-1 winners.
Sweden-Nigeria, Winnipeg, 8 June, 15.00 local time
The Scandinavians begin their campaign against a side that has become a familiar presence in the competition. This will be the third meeting between the two teams. The first came in the group phase at USA 2003, where the Swedes won 3-0 and went on to reach the Final, while the Nigerians finished bottom of the pool. The second came in China PR four years later, with the two teams playing out a 1-1 draw in their opening group match but failing to make the next round.
Player to watch
Abby Wambach is one of the greatest players the USA has ever produced. The scorer of over 180 goals in nearly 250 appearances for her country, the striker has two Olympic gold medals to her name and was voted FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in 2012. The one piece of silverware to have eluded her so far is the World Cup Trophy, and having ended up on the losing side in the Final at Germany 2011, Canada 2015 could well be Wambach’s last chance of getting her hands on it.