The Women's World Cup draw is becoming quite predictable.
The United States, the top seed in Group B at the 2007 Women's World Cup, will face North Korea, Sweden and Nigeria -- the same
three opponents it faced in the first round of the 2003 World Cup. In addition, it marked the third straight time the Americans were to face North Korea and Nigeria.
The placement of North Korea, the No. 5 ranked team in the World Cup, sparked
controversy as it was placed by FIFA -- not drawn -- in the U.S. group. Coach Greg Ryan
said the USA was drawn with the best teams from each of the three pots
at Sunday's draw in Wuhan, China. Sweden is ranked No. 4 in the world, and Nigeria has been Africa's best team for almost two decades.
"We have to go in there knowing that we are playing a
great team in North Korea and need to get a result, then an incredibly talented Sweden team and then we play African champion Nigeria," he said. "Every game is going to require great focus and
intensity to get the results we want."
More than 800 people attended the draw ceremony at the Guanggu Science and Technology Exhibition Centre in Wuhan. On Saturday, China beat the World
All-Stars, 3-2, on Ji Ting
's goal in the 90th minute in a game that attracted 31,000 fans.
Here's a look at the USA's three Group B opponents:
The North Koreans went into the 2006 Asian Women's Cup as the two-time defending champions, but they had to beat Japan, 3-2, in the
third-place game to qualify for the Women's World Cup. Following a post-game brawl after their 1-0 loss to China in the semifinals, three North Korean players were suspended and fined for the
altercation, including the goalkeeper Hye Yong Han, who was banned world-wide for a year for kicking the referee in the back. North Korea also won the 2006 U-20 Women's World Cup.
North Korea is the best team in Asia for a few years," said Ryan. "I've watched them many times in Olympic qualification and qualification for the 2003 World Cup, and I think there is no doubt they
are the best in the Asia." Game:
Sept. 11 in Chengdu (Chengdu Sports Center Stadium) 5 pm local/5 am ET. Record:
USA leads the series with a 2-0-0 record. SWEDEN.
The 2003 Women's World Cup runners-up gave the USA perhaps their toughest test
of the year, twice coming back from two-goal deficits before falling, 3-2, to the Americans at the Algarve Cup in March. Sweden won its last seven games in European qualifying after opening with a
2-2 tie at home against Iceland.
"Sweden is one of my favorite teams," said Ryan. "They are dynamic, and have great team play, but they also have great individual play. They cut their
players loose and let them attack and take risks. They are just fun to watch. I think right now, they are definitely playing the best soccer in Europe." Game:
Sept. 14 in Chengdu (Chengdu Sports Center Stadium) 5 pm local/5 am ET. Record:
the series with a 14-3-5 all-time record. NIGERIA. Perpetua Nkwocha
's early goal gave the Super Falcons a 1-0 victory over Ghana in the final to
clinch their seventh straight African women's championship -- and the fifth in a row by shutout.
The USA has won the two meetings in the Women's World Cup -- 5-1 in 1999 and 5-0 in 2003 -- but
Ryan called Nigeria easily the best team in its pot at the Wuhan draw. Game:
Sept. 18 in Shanghai (Shanghai
Hongkou Football Stadium) at 8 pm local/8 am ET. Record:
USA leads the series with a 2-0-0 record. CHINA
Germany, Japan, England, Argentina. GROUP B:
United States, North Korea, Sweden,
Nigeria. GROUP C:
Norway, Australia, Ghana, Canada. GROUP D:
China, Brazil, Denmark, New Zealand.