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Women's World Cup

Eight matches highlight weekend.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Friday, June 18, 1999) -- Here are capsules previews -- with predictions -- of first-round weekend games at the start of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup (times Eastern):

Saturday

United States vs. Denmark (3 p.m., East Rutherford, ABC): Sellout crowd near 80,000 is expected for Group A opener in Giants Stadium, with the Americans favored against a Denmark team that struggled the past month in exhibition play. The Danes rely on the long ball and the aerial game. Lene Terp anchors the defense. The United States needs to be creative when forward Mia Hamm is double-teamed, and also has to watch the counter-attacks. Much attention on young Kate Sobrero in the central defense, and on young Cindy Parlow in the attack.
Prediction: United States 2, Denmark 0.

Brazil vs. Mexico (5:30 p.m., East Rutherford, ESPN): Brazil is a heavy favorite; goal-differential could be a factor in Group B, so look for Coach Ze Duarte to try to pile up the score if possible. Pretinha and Katia are strong up front. Sissi is the field general. Elane, a central defender, also is a scoring threat. Laurie Hill is the Mexico leader at midfield playmaker position.
Prediction: Brazil 4, Mexico 0.

Japan vs. Canada (8 p.m., San Jose, ESPN2): It will be the offense of Canada against the defense of Japan, which may have to double-team explosive attacking midfielder Charmaine Hooper. She has speed and power, and is helped on attack by Silvana Burtini and Shannon Rosenow. Strength of Japan is at midfield, where former striker Tamaki Uchiyama has moved, and don't be surprised if this inexperienced team is successful on counterattacks against suspect Canadian defense in Group C matchup.
Prediction: Canada 2, Japan 1.

China vs. Sweden (10:30 p.m., San Jose, ESPN2): Could be the top match of the day as two Group D powers collide. China emphasizes offense, and has become more physical in the past year. Team can be brilliant at times, sloppy at others. Sun Wen and Jin Yan are a potent force up front. Liu Ailing is a force both ways in central midfield. Sweden goes with Victoria Svensson, 22, and Hanna Ljungberg, 20, at forward. Malin Andersson is top midfielder. Defense is strong. Two top goalkeepers on display -- Ulrika Karlsson (Sweden) and Gao Hong (China).
Prediction: China 2, Sweden 0.

Sunday

Australia vs. Ghana (1:30 p.m., Foxboro, ESPN): - Aussies have spent nearly $1 million in preparing team for World Cup, with obvious eye toward next year's Olympics they host. Julie Murray is the top striker and may be problem for Ghana defense in Group D clash. Midfield is strong with Alison Forman, Cheryl Salisbury and Sharon Black. Anissa Tann-Darby is top defender. Vivian Mensah, a striker, leads Ghana, which recently lost a pair of 2-1 decisions to China.
Prediction: Australia 0, Ghana 0.

Norway vs. Russia (4 p.m., Foxboro, ESPN2): Norway, in easy Group C, may have its toughest foe in physically imposing Russia. Defending champions have several stars from 1995-96 teams back. Linda Medalen has moved from striker to bolster defense. Offense is potent led by veteran midfielder Hege Riise and forwards Maranne Pettersen and Ann Kristin Aarones. Natalya Barbashina is scoring threat for Russia, especially on headers, with assistance from playmaker Irina Grigorieva.
Prediction: Norway 3, Russia 1.

Germany vs. Italy (7 p.m., Pasadena, ESPN2): Likely to be the feature match of the day, between European rivals in Group B. Midfielders Martina Voss and Bettina Wiegmann are German stalwarts, along with defender Doris Fitschen and outstanding goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg. Italy plays a short-passing game with a disciplined defense, led by Damiana Deiana and Daniela Tavalazzi, along with goalkeeper Giorgia Brenzan. Patrizia Panico is a big scoring threat at forward.
Prediction: Germany 1, Italy 1.

North Korea vs. Nigeria (9:30 p.m., Pasadena, ESPN2): Intriguing match is likely, with winner expected to challenge for second Group A advancement slot to quarterfinals. Nigeria is fast and athletic, led by forward Mercy (Marvelous) Akide and midfielder Patience Avre. African champions are 0-5-1 in two previous World Cups. North Korea is quick and physical, too, and relies heavily on forward Kim Kum Sil and defender Kim Sun Hui. This match could lead in yellow cards.
Prediction: Nigeria 2, North Korea 0.

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

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