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Women's World Cup

World Cup game previews with quarterfinals in sight.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Friday, June 25, 1999) -- Just one team has been eliminated, Mexico, going into the weekend's final first-round matches of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup.

And every game Saturday and Sunday, at this point, has bearing on either (1) what teams advance to the quarterfinals or (2) what teams qualifiers will meet next Wednesday or Thursday. Attendance is averaging 31,582 for the eight doubleheaders.

Match analyses (Times are Eastern)

Saturday

Canada vs. Russia (noon, Giants Stadium, ESPN): Winner of this Group C game advances to quarterfinals. Momentum is going Russia's way after 5-0 rout of Japan. Canada has been major disappointment and was without injured forward Silvana Burtini in 7-1 loss to Norway. Irina Grijorieva has been spectacular playmaker for Russians, who may be weary following Boston-to-Portland-to-New York trips in a week. They rely on physical strength in the box. Canada has attacking mentality, but is leaving itself open for counter-attacks.
Prediction: Russia 2, Canada 1.

China vs. Australia (2:30 p.m., Giants Stadium, ESPN): Sun Wen leads China attack, fresh from two-goal outburst in 7-0 demolition of Ghana. Look for some regulars to be rested, with team a lock for Group D title. Big game for Australia, though, which could make the quarterfinals with an unlikely win - and a Sweden loss to Ghana. Julie Murray is the lone offensive threat for the Aussies, who have not played up to expectations. Will Giants Stadium better the astounding two-night average crowds of 18,898 in Portland for a pair of non-U.S. doubleheaders?
Prediction: China 3, Australia 1.

Ghana vs. Sweden (5 p.m., Soldier Field, ESPN2): Ghana gets back midfielder Barikisu Tettey-Quao, red-carded for tackle from behind in opener, but loses two more starters - defender Regina Ansah, ejected in China match, and defender Rita Yeboah, who picked up her second yellow card. Ghana's offsides trap has not worked. Sweden is the tournament darkhorse and probably only needs a draw to advance to a likely quarterfinal pairing against Norway. Defender Jane Tomqvist, strong in the air, is questionable after suffering facial cuts.
Prediction: Sweden 3, Ghana 0.

Norway vs. Japan (7:30 p.m., Soldier Field, ESPN2): Rangy midfielder Ann Kristin Aarones, held out the opener, has joined Marianne Pettersen to form a potent 1-2 punch for Norway in weak Group C. Central defender Linda Medalen is hard-nosed, but also a flamboyant personality on and off the field. Midfielder Tomomi Mitsui is excellent at creating chances for Japan, but there is no oomph in the finishing. Look for Norway to rest some regulars. World Cup officials hoping for large Scandinavian fan presence.
Prediction: Norway 3, Japan 0.

Sunday

Germany vs. Brazil (1:30 p.m., Landover, Md., ESPN2): Winner of this match avoids the United States in the quarterfinals. Brazil captures Group B with just a tie. Germany advances with a draw, too. Sissi, 32, has five goals from attacking midfield to lead colorful Brazilians. Nene is another force. Maravilha, strong in the goal, stopped Italy penalty shot. Germany is fresh from forward Inka Grings' three goals in 6-0 rout of Mexico, a match marred by Germans' failure to finish numerous scoring chances.
Prediction: Brazil 2, Germany 1.

Nigeria vs. Denmark (4 p.m., Landover, Md., ESPN2): Which team will be better prepared emotionally? Nigeria, fired up after an opening-game victory, was buried, 7-1, by the United States. Denmark, usually ranked just below the world elite, has lost two straight. Like Russia, the Danes may be facing travel fatigue, with a New York-to-Portland-to-Washington itinerary the past week. Furthermore, two defenders are out, Marlene Kristensen with a broken leg and Karina Christensen with a broken nose.
Prediction: Nigeria 2, Denmark 1.

Mexico vs. Italy (4:30 p.m., Foxboro, Mass., ESPN2 taped delay 12:30 a.m.): During the men's World Cup, FIFA schedules final first-round games in the same group at the same time so as to avoid the appearance of a conflict. Not so with the women. If Brazil beats Germany earlier, that means Italy could grab second place in Group B with a huge victory against outclassed Mexico, which has yielded 13 goals in two matches. Italy is minus-2 in goal differential, and Germany is plus-6, not an insurmountable gap. But Italy has managed just one goal so far.
Prediction: Italy 7, Mexico 0.

United States vs. North Korea (7 p.m., Foxboro, Mass., ESPN2): The Group A title isn't clinched, but the Americans would have to lose by five goals to blow it. That's not likely to happen, though look for North Korea to play conservatively since it could make the quarterfinals even with a loss, due to superior goal-differential, providing Denmark beats Nigeria earlier. North Korea will be without Pak Jong Ae, redcarded for a dangerous tackle, and Ri Kum Suk, out due to two yellow cards. Look for the United States to rest, among others, midfielder Michelle Akers and defender Kate Sobrero. Sellout crowd, third straight for Americans, likely.
Prediction: United States 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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