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Women's World Cup

Previews for the second set of first round games.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, June 22, 1999) -- Most of the attention for FIFA Women's World Cup second games will be in Chicago, where Thursday's doubleheader pits Brazil against Italy, and the United States against Nigeria before an anticipated 65,000 sellout in Soldier Field.

(Times are Eastern)


Norway vs. Canada (6 p.m., Landover, Md., ESPN2): Norway failed to convert at least a dozen good scoring chances in opening 2-1 win against Russia. Marianne Petterson is nifty in the box and could score at will in Group C match. Charmaine Hooper, attacking midfielder for Canada, needs to take charge after desultory performance in 1-1 tie against Japan. Big question is left hamstring suffered by striker Silvana Burtini, who is day-to-day. Norway can clinch group title with victory.
Prediction: Norway 4, Canada 1.

Australia vs. Sweden (8:30 p.m., Landover, Md., ESPN2): Sweden is a youthful darkhorse that appears headed for the quarterfinals. It has a promising duo at forward in Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson. The Group D team needs to pace itself better; the Swedes ran out of gas in the second half of 2-1 loss to China. Australia was a disappointment against Ghana, held to a draw despite having one-player advantage for two-thirds of the match due to a red card. Julie Murray is the main hope at striker.
Prediction: Sweden 3, Australia 0.

Japan vs. Russia (9 p.m., Portland, Ore., ESPN 2 -tape delay 10:30): It will be finesse vs. power, the speed and ballhandling of Japan against the the strength of physically imposing Russia. The winner stays alive in the battle for the second Group C qualifying slot. Homare Sawa is a brilliant dribbling midfielder who keys the Japan attack. Russia was outclassed by Norway in first game but has strength up the middle in striker Natalya Barbashina, midfielder Irina Grigorieva and sweeper Marina Burakova.
Prediction: Japan 1, Russia 1.

China vs. Ghana (11:30 p.m., Portland, ESPN2 - tape delay 12:30 a.m.): Goalkeeper Memunatu Sulemana, spectacular with 11 saves in the 1-1 tie with Australia, again figures to be extremely busy against highly favored China in Group D confrontation. Chinese were not happy with their play against Sweden, so may take it out on Ghana. Midfielder Liu Ailing leads attack for China. Is star striker Sun Wen fully recovered from knee bump suffered in opener? Vivian Mensah is Ghana scoring threat.
Prediction: China 4, Ghana 0.


Brazil vs. Italy (6 p.m., Chicago, ESPN2): Too bad this matchup doesn't occur Wednesday, where three routs and one lacklustre game are in prospect. Instead, Soldier Field gets terrific doubleheader. Group B meeting pairs fancy dribbling and passing Brazil against methodical defense of Italy, whose Fredericka D'Astolfo picked up a yellow card and committed seven fouls in tie against Germany. Big test for midfielder Sissi and forward Pretinha, who each got three goals against Mexico.
Prediction: Brazil 2, Italy 0.

United States vs. Nigeria (8:30 p.m., Chicago, ESPN): Is there reason to be concerned about the U.S. defense? Some answers may be forthcoming in Group A encounter against explosive Nigeria, which is led by forward Mercy Akide. Midfielder Florence Omagbemi is a stalwart, and sweeper Eberechi Opara anchors the defense. Nigeria has plenty of speed to use against the Americans, three of whose starting five defenders are 31, and a fourth 33. But look for U.S. forwards Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett to capitalize on huge gaps in the African power's defense.
Prediction: United States 3, Nigeria 1.

North Korea vs. Denmark (9 p.m., Portland, ESPN 2 - tape delay 10:30): The winner stays alive in battle for second Group A qualifying berth. North Korea showed stamina in staying with speedier Nigeria in opener despite the early benching of defender and captain Kim Sun Hui. No word on her status has been announced. Midfielder Gitte Krogh and defender Lene Terp lead Denmark, which wilted in the Giants Stadium heat against the United States.
Prediction: Denmark 1, North Korea 0.

Germany vs. Mexico (11:30 p.m., Portland, ESPN 2 - tape delay 12:30 a.m.): Look for Mexico to pack in the defense, to try to avoid a second consecutive rout. Maribel Dominguez and Monica Gerardo are the main threats up top, with Laurie Hill the midfield field general. It took Germany a half to get untracked against Italy, and midfielder Martina Voss hopes to get her team going quicker. Goal differential may be important, so don't look for any mercy from the Germans.
Prediction: Germany 3, Mexico 0.

The writer's first-round record: 7-1, with lone miss Japan's tie with Canada.

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

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