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Women’s World Cup field takes shape.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, May 19, 1998) -- Five teams already are qualified for the 16-nation 1999 Women's World Cup in the United States -- Brazil, China, North Korea, Japan and host U.S.

Sweden is odds-on to win Group 1 in Europe and take one of the continent's six slots. Italy has just about clinched in Group 2, though Finland could tie by sweeping the last three games.

Germany is ahead in Group 3, but Norway can win by taking its last two matches. Front-running Denmark is favored in Group 4 with Russia assured of at least finishing second.

The four runners-up meet in a two-match series to determine the final two European slots.

Nigeria is defending champion in Africa, with South Africa and Ghana expected to contend for the second slot. Australia is regarded a lock in Oceania.

Canada is a heavy CONCACAF choice, with competition for the second (playoff) slot wide open in the North America-Caribbean-Central America region, with that team to face South American runner-up Argentina for the final slot.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.