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Women's World Cup Viewer's Guide: USA AGAINST THE WORLD

USA USA
FIFA Ranking: 2 

USA Road to Canada

The U.S. has had a rollercoaster lead up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup. After a shaky couple years following the last World Cup in 2011, they started 2014 with a disappointing seventh place finish at the Algarve Cup, the worst ever for the U.S. in the tournament they’ve won nine times. Shortly after, the U.S. bounced back with a perfect World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring 21 goals while not letting in a single goal! But recent losses against France and Brazil and a draw against China has raised concerns over whether the U.S. will be at their best come June. Has the U.S. hit their peak or is the best yet to come? 

USA Main Threats
The Yanks have plenty of powerful tools for the 2015 World Cup. With a great mix of experience and youth flair, fans expect nothing less than a 1st place finish.  The U.S. has one of the most potent attacks of the tournament, with former FIFA World Player of the Year Abby Wambach and AYSO alumni/global superstar Alex Morgan leading the charge, surrounded by some of the game’s best in Sydney Leroux, AYSO alumni Christen Press and Carli Lloyd. Goals should come aplenty for the Stars and Stripes in 2015.
 
USA Who’s The Coach?
Jill Ellis is no stranger to winning. She is one of the most successful college coaches of all time, amassing a 229-45-14 record with UCLA and coaching the University of Illinois to an impressive 248-63-14 record.  She also has plenty of experience developing superstars—she served as the Director of Development of USA women’s soccer programs since 2011 and has been a big influence in all aspects of the U.S.’s success for the past decade. 

USA World Cup Record

The U.S. has the most impressive World Cup record out of all the teams in the tournament this year. They’ve qualified for every World Cup since its inception in 1991 and have two World Cups trophies to show for it. They’ve never finished lower than third place in a World Cup and are aiming to keep that tradition going in 2015. In the most recent World Cup, the U.S. made it to final, losing in an agonizingly close affair to Japan in penalty kicks.

USA What They’re Saying
"For me, 2011 was just a heartbreak. The whole motivation now is for that not to happen again and to win a World Cup. For every player in the group, they're believing that [Canada 2015] is our World Cup. This is our World Cup to win and that's how we're preparing" - Tobin Heath, USA midfielder

USA’S GROUP

AUSTRALIAAUSTRALIA
FIFA Ranking: 10

USA Road to Canada
Australia didn’t have much trouble qualifying to the 2015 World Cup. They finished in second at the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, right behind current World Cup Champions Japan. But the Matildas have experienced an up and down past few years, with their coach resigning in the midst of their qualifying campaign. 

USA Main Threats
This Australian team’s look is very different from the slower, more aggressive style of year’s past. This time around, the team is young, fast and highly technical. Leading the youthful charge will be experienced forwards Lisa De Vanna and Kate Gill. The rest of the team consists of young players that first debuted at the last World Cup, including Caitlin Foord who was named best young player of the tournament. 

USA Who’s the Coach?
Coach Alen Stajcic was named head coach this past September. Stajcic is best known for coaching the Australian league’s Sydney FC to two league titles. He brought an energetic, attacking style of play to Sydney and given the speed and technique on this World Cup team, many are expecting much of the same for Australia during the World Cup. 

USA World Cup Record
Australia failed to qualify to the first World Cup in 1991, but has taken part in every tournament since. Their best performances came in 2007 and 2011 where they reached the Quarter Finals. Many expect this to be Australia’s best World Cup to date considering that most of the young players that were still developing on the 2011 team will be more mature and ready to lead Australia to a title. 

USA What They Say
“We want to go out and be positive, back ourselves and win games. We would rather lose and be positive, than have a negative mindset going into a game,"  Alen Stajcic, Australia coach.

SWEDENSWEDEN
FIFA Rank: 5

USA Road to Canada 
In ten World Cup qualifying matches, Sweden won every match while conceding just one goal. As impressive as that sounds, head coach Pia Sundhage worries that the team’s goal scoring woes can be an issue during the World Cup. They’ve had a bumpy road to the World Cup as well, losing to favorites Germany (1-2) and hosts Canada (0-1) within the past six months. 

USA Main Threats
Sweden has a strong defense, but since Sundhage changed the team’s style, they’ve struggled a bit in the attack. They play a very possession-based style and will be relying on the talismanic Caroline Seger and the dangerous Lotta Schelin to provide the attacking spark. 

USA Who’s the Coach?
Sweden coach Pia Sundhage is a name U.S. Soccer fans have come to love. Not only is she the former FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football, Pia Sundhage coached the U.S. Women’s National team to four of its most impressive years in its history. Shortly after resigning as USA’s head coach after the last World Cup, she took the head coaching position for her native Sweden.  She is considered by many to be one of Women Soccer’s greatest coaches. 

USA World Cup Record
Sweden have a perfect qualifying record, reaching every World Cup to date. Though they have two third place finishes and one agonizingly close second place finish, Sweden is determined to hoist the World Cup in 2015 for the first time. 

USA What They’re Saying
"We keep taking small steps all the time. A medal is absolutely what we're going for now. We got the bronze last time and are looking to improve on that" - Lotta Schelin, Sweden forward

NIGERIAnigeria
FIFA Rank: 42

USA Road to Canada 
Nigeria has been a force to be reckoned with in African soccer, winning nine of 11 African Women’s Championships (AWC), sometimes outscoring their opponents by double digit score margins. They qualified to the 2015 World Cup by scoring 16 goals and conceding just three in the most recent AWC. Though many don’t expect Nigeria to beat the U.S., Sweden and Australia for a spot in the quarterfinals, Nigeria has been working hard to shock the world at this year’s tournament. 

USA Main Threats
Nigeria have had great success in African cups and qualifying by playing a very attacking brand of soccer. On the frontline will be the top two goal scorers in Africa, Desire Oparanozie and U-20 World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Asisat Oshoala. These two goal hounds combined for nine goals in the most recent African championship. Though Nigeria may be lacking in star power, they will be led by two very talented and young goal scorers and protected by veterans Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale on the defensive end. 

USA Who’s the Coach?
Edwin Okon was given the reins shortly after leading Nigeria’s U-20 National team to an impressive fourth place finish at the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. It was one of the best finishes Nigeria has had on the world stage at any level and Nigerian fans are hoping that Okon can carry over that success to the senior side this summer. 

USA World Cup Record
Nigeria has qualified for every World Cup, but have only made it out of the Group Stage once. Their best performance came in 1999 in the USA where they eventually lost in the quarterfinals to Brazil in a 4-3 double overtime nail-biter. 

USA What They’re Saying
“We can't go to the World Cup to merely add to the numbers, but we're going there to participate and to prove a point. I can't say right away how far we'll go at the World Cup, but I'm positive we won't disappoint Nigerians when hostilities start in Canada. We have quality and experienced players in our midst who can turn things around," Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria striker

The U.S.'s Biggest Threats

GERMANYGermany
FIFA Rank: 1 

USA Road to Canada
Germany qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 by winning all ten of their games in their qualifying group against Russia, Republic of Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia. The eight-time European champions booked their ticket by scoring an impressive 62 goals in 10 games and conceding just four. 

USA Main threats
Germany have a powerful mix of expert veterans and energetic youngsters, including global talents like current FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer, captain and goal-scoring machine Celia Sasic and the elusive Anja Mittag. 

USA Who's The Coach?
Silvia Neid has been a big part of both of her country’s World Cup triumphs and eight European Championships as either a player, assistant or head coach. In 2010 and 2013, Neid was honored as FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football. With such a great team at her disposal, she is expected to take bring Germany their third World Cup trophy.

USA World Cup Record
Germany has never failed to qualify for a World Cup and have won two world cups—in the USA in 2003 and China in 2007. In the most recent World Cup, Germany was shockingly eliminated 1-0 in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Japan.

USA What They Say
“We want to have a say in the World Cup in Canada next year. I think Germany are always among the favorites. It’s important to us to play against the best teams in the world during our preparations" - Melanie Behringer, Germany midfielder

BRAZILBrazil
FIFA Rank: 8

USA Road to Canada

Don’t let the lower FIFA Rank fool you—Brazil has qualified for every World Cup and as six-time Copa America champions, destroying Ecuador 4-1 and Argentina 6-0 on the way there, are by far the strongest South American team in the tournament. In addition, Brazil has beaten and tied the US in their past two meetings this year. 

USA Main Threats
Though they secured the South American championship without her, Brazil will have five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta leading their attack. Arguably the greatest female player of all time, Marta will have the support of deadly striker Cristiane, midfielder Formica and the exceptional goalkeeping of Andreia to hold down the fort. 

USA Who’s the Coach?
New boss Vadao took charge in April 2014 and has over 20 years of experience in men’s soccer for various teams in the Brazilian league. He is credited for discovering global superstar Kaka and Rivaldo. 

USA World Cup Record
Brazil has qualified for every World Cup. In their first two appearances, they were eliminated in the group stages, then went on to a third place finish in 1999. Brazil’s best World Cup performance was in China 2007, where they finished second. They followed this strong tournament with disappointing quarterfinal exits in the past two World Cups. 

USA What They’re Saying
“Marta is just as important to us as Neymar is to the Men’s team” - Vadao, Brazil coach

JAPANJapan
FIFA Rank: 4

USA Road to Canada 
Japan rose as World Cup Champions just months after the tsunami and earthquake that devastated the country in 2011. They beat the USA in the final, marking one of the most emotional and bittersweet victories in women’s soccer history. Despite winning the 2011 World Cup, Japan had never been crowned champions of their regional AFC Women’s Asian Cup. In 2014, that all changed as Japan stormed to their first Asian championship, showing the world that this could be their best team to date. 

USA Main Threats
Japan doesn’t have a roster full of superstars like many of the other teams in the tournament, but they excel in short-passing and technical expertise. Many call them the “Barcelona” of women’s soccer due to their stylish flair and ability to retain possession. It is a methodology that remains a cornerstone of their game and helps counter their lack of size and physical strength on the team. Though Japan has world class players in striker Yuki Ogimi and Aya Miyami, they rely much more on unity than any one player. 

USA Who’s the Coach?
Sasaki brings a technical and free flowing brand of soccer to Japan. He doesn’t boast an impressive resume for international soccer standards, but his seven years leading Japan has resulted in widespread praise from soccer enthusiasts and critics everywhere. 

USA World Cup Record
Japan are the only Asian nation to have participated in every FIFA Women’s World Cup to date. Aside from being crowned champions in the last World Cup, they made the Quarter Final stage once and were knocked out in Group stages every other time. 

USA What They’re Saying
“The young players have shown me they have good potential and have experienced good lessons for the future” - Norio Sasaki, Japan coach

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