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Preview: Time for another European force to shock women's soccer
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10:50, September 08, 2007

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Will there be an Asian party when the women's soccer World Cup backs to China after 16 years? Small talks are simmering before the tournament kicks off this month in five cities of the East Asian pioneer nation of women's soccer.

Putting aside the chances of the hosts China, many believe that there'll be Asian teams emerging as the surprise packages in the last eight.

Asia this time around has fielded Japan in Group A, DPR Korea in Group B and China in Group D in the 16-team tournament, together with five teams from Europe, four from America, two from Africa and two from Oceania.

Despite their relatively unimpressive record on the world stage, DPR Korea and Japan are respectively fifth and 10th at the FIFA women's soccer world rankings with domestic results.

DPR Korea will make the twice World Cup winners the United States and last edition's runners-up Sweden to be more than entertained by their group which also features African champions Nigeria and is best described as the Group of Death.

Kim Kwang Min's squad, recruiting the 2006 U20 World Cup winners Ho Sun Hui and Kim Kyong Hwa alongside established striker Ri Kum Suk and other world-class players, could be the real challengers against both the Americans and the Nordic with their speed, stamina and physical strength, coupled with a trademark never-say-die spirit.

Though having again been bowed out in the first round in the 2003 USA World Cup, the former Asian Champions were crowned at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar last December, as well as doing well in the World Cup advance and are currently on top of the qaulifying group for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The question for DPR Korea is whether they will break the jinx to advance to the knocking-out phrase for the ever first time in the team's history while facing the same foes they met four years ago, which still stand strong as ever before.

Japan, the silver medalists in last year's Doha Asian Games, could come out the other potential dark horse in group stage, though they may not need to turn out giant-killers and are not good enough to beat off defending champions Germany in Group A.

Although the Japanese players do not look strong in physiques, they are skilful enough and every member of the squad is capable of playing good positional football and linking up well with teammates. They beat Mexico in the qualification playoffs to make their fifth consecutive finals.

Homare Sawa, the most famous Japanese who has scored 60 goals in her 118 caps, will make her fourth World Cup appearance, and Hiroshi Ohashi's new weapon, young striker Eriko Arakawa, will for sure harass the opponents' goal with sudden but precise shots through the wonderful teamwork from a well-balanced squad.

However, Japan's chances are counter-partially depending on the performance of the English women.

Unlike the men's part, the women's soccer world believes in the myth of a latest developing force born in the soil of tradional football power.

England, which only made once their appearance in the World Cup 12 years ago, is just such a team.

They were grouped with Norway, Canada and Nigeria in 1995 and qualified as second-place finishers but lost to Germany 3-0 in the knockout stage to finish sixth.

In England, which has arguably the best female footballers' training system in the world, women players usually train with their men counterparts in the same club, which made them more aggressive.

During the qualifications for the 2007 World Cup, England, ranked 12th in the world, were unbeaten and topped more fancied group rival France with Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey coming out the most reliable players on the team.

"We would like to challenge every team," said coach Hope Powell in forseeing the matches in China. "We like the feeling to win."

The 1999 World Cup launched the beginning of a new era of success for women's football by sending the U.S. on top after eight years, the 2003 USA witnessed the sudden burst of Germany and Nodic countries of Sweden and Norway, and this time, it may be England's turn to shock the world.

Source: Xinhua



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