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U.S. Draws "Group of Death" for Women's World Cup


CARSON, Calif. (Thursday, July 17, 2003) – The U.S. Women’s National Team discovered today that it has been drawn into Group A with Sweden, Nigeria and Korea DPR (North Korea) for the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003. The draw was held today at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., which will serve as the site of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2003 Final as well as the Third Place Match and two opening round match dates.
 
The top-ranked U.S. WNT will open Group A play against the No. 5 team in the world, Sweden, on Sept. 21 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Following that game, the U.S. will play matches against Nigeria on Sept. 25 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and against Korea DPR on Sept. 28 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
 
“After looking at the draw, I think it’s very to similar to our draw in the 2000 Olympics. We have to face three of the best seven or eight teams in the world, so our work is cut out for us,” said U.S. WNT head coach April Heinrichs, who has guided the U.S. to a 9-1-3 record so far in 2003. “Sweden is a tough opponent that we tied in the 2003 Algarve Cup (in March) and Nigeria we played in 1999 and 2000, and they are a radically different team from the normal opponent we face. North Korea is a team that we know very little about, and it can be very disconcerting to be playing against such an unknown opponent.
“It’s a very tough and difficult draw,” summarized Heinrichs. “But we didn’t expect it to be an easy time, and we’re ready for the challenge.”
 
Coincidentally, the teams and order of opponents that the U.S. will face in 2003 is almost identical to that of USA ‘99, in which they opened against a tough European team (then Denmark, now Sweden), played an unpredictable Nigeria in its second match, and closed out the first round against a gritty North Korean side.
Should the U.S. advance to the quarterfinals, the team will play one of the top two teams from Group B at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., on Wednesday, Oct. 1. Both semifinals will be played at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., on Sunday, Oct. 5, while the final and third place will be played as stand alone games on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, respectively, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
 
In the rest of the draw, the other teams ranked in the top four in the first ever FIFA Women’s World Ranking announced yesterday – China, Norway, Germany – were given top seeds in the other three groups. Joining Norway in Group B are Brazil, France and South Korea. Joining Germany in Group C are Canada, Japan and Argentina. And finally, in Group D with China are Ghana, Russia and Australia. The top two teams in Group C and D will face each other in the quarterfinals at PGE Park.

Group A Opponents All-Time Record vs. USA:
                    GP  W    L    T   GF  GA  Ranking    Note
Sweden        17    2    10   5   14   30     5            Won Group 2 of Euro Qualifying
Nigeria           2    0     2    0    2    10    23            2002 African Women’s Champion
Korea DPR    1    0     1    0    0     3      7             2003 Asian Champion
Total             20    2    13   5   16  43    


USA WWC 2003 Schedule:
Date                   Opponent            Venue; City
Sun., Sept. 21     Sweden               RFK Stadium; Washington, D.C.    
Thurs., Sept. 25  Nigeria                Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pa.
Sun., Sept. 28     Korea DPR         Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio    
Wed., Oct. 1       Quarterfinals*     Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, Mass.
Sun., Oct. 5         Semifinals*         PGE Park; Portland, Ore.
Sat., Oct. 11        Third Place*      The Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
Sun., Oct. 12       Final*                The Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.    
*if necessary        

U.S. Opponent Team Profiles:
SWEDEN (SWE)

FIFA Women’s World Ranking: 5
2003 Women’s World Cup qualifying: Finished first in Group 2 of European Women’s World Cup Qualifying.
Prior Women’s World Cup final appearances: 3 – 1991 (3rd), 1995 (5th), 1999 (6th).
Overall Record in WWC: 8-6-0
Head Coach: Marika Domanski Lyfors (SWE)  
Championship Honors: 1984 European Champions, Algarve Cup Champions in 1995 and 2001.
Key Players: M Malin Andersson, D Kristin Bengtsson, G Caroline Jonsson, F Hanna Ljungberg, D Hanna Marklund, M Malin Mostrom, D Jane Tornqvist, D Karolina Westberg, F Victoria Svensson.
Fast Facts:
--Sweden, a 1991 Women’s World Cup semifinalist, fought a battle with Denmark in Group 2 of the European Women’s World Cup qualifying, tying the Danes on points with 15 from five wins and one loss for each country -- with both losses coming to the other -- but edged their Scandinavian neighbors on goal difference, pounding in 27 goals while allowing just four.
--Sweden has one of the world’s best strikers in the diminutive Hanna Ljungberg and a dynamic midfield led by Malin Mostrom.  A tremendously organized and tough back line has proven difficult to penetrate in front of talented goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson, making Sweden, which is playing some of its best soccer in many years, one of the popular picks to go deep into the tournament.

2003 Women’s World Cup Qualification Results:
Sweden 8, Finland 1
Sweden 4, Denmark 1
Sweden 5, Switzerland 0
Sweden 4, Switzerland 0
Sweden 1, Denmark 2
Sweden 5, Finland 0

NIGERIA (NGA)

FIFA Women’s World Ranking: 23
2003 Women’s World Cup qualifying: Finished first at the 2002 African Women’s Championships
Prior Women’s World Cup final appearances: 3 – 1991 (10th), 1995 (11th), 1999 (7th).
Overall Record in WWC: 2-7-1
Head Coach: Sam Okpodu (NGA)
Championship Honors:  African Women’s Champions in 1991, 1995, 1998, 2000 and 2002.
Key Players: F Mercy Akide (Hampton Roads Piranhas), F Patience Avre (Charlotte Lady Eagles), F Ifeanyi Chiejine, M Stella Mbachu, D Perpetua Nkwocha, M Nkiru Okosieme (Charlotte Lady Eagles), M Florence Omagbemi (Hampton Roads Piranhas).
Fast Facts:  
--The Super Falcons are perennial African champions, winning all three African Women’s World Cup qualification tournaments.  The gap closed a bit recently, as Ghana defeated Nigeria, 1-0, in first-round play at the qualification tournament for the 2003 Women’s World Cup, which was held in Nigeria in December of 2002.  Nigeria rebounded to defeat Ethiopia and Mali in first round play before downing South Africa in the semifinal and took revenge on Ghana in the championship game, 2-0.  
--Nigeria has two players with WUSA experience in “Marvelous” Mercy Akide, the 2001 African Female Player of the Year and a star at the 1999 Women ‘s World Cup, and captain Florence “Flo” Omagbemi.  Akide played for the San Diego Spirit for two seasons while Omagbemi played for the Boston Breakers and the Spirit.  Patience Avre was a First-Team NAIA All-American at Robert Morris College (Ill.).

2003 Women’s World Cup Qualification Results:

Dec. 7, 2002    Nigeria 3, Ethiopia 0    Warri, Nigeria
Dec. 10, 2002    Nigeria 0, Ghana 1    Warri, Nigeria
Dec. 13, 2002    Nigeria 5, Mali 1    Warri, Nigeria
Dec. 18, 2002    Nigeria 5, South Africa 0    Warri, Nigeria
Dec. 20, 2002    Nigeria 2, Ghana 0    Warri, Nigeria

KOREA DPR / NORTH KOREA (PRK)

FIFA Women’s World Ranking: 7
2003 Women’s World Cup qualifying: Won the 2003 Asian Championships, defeating China in the championship game, 2-1, in sudden death overtime.
Prior Women’s World Cup final appearances:  1 - 1999 (10th).
Overall Record in WWC: 1-2-0
Head Coach: Ri Song Gun (PRK)  
Championship Honors: Asian Women’s Champions in 2001 and 2003; Asian Games Champions in 2002.
Key Players: M Jang Ok-gyong, M Jin Pyol-hui, F Ri Hyang-Ok, G Ri Jong-Hui, F Ri Kum-suk, D Yun In-sil, M Yun Yong-hui.
Fast Facts:
--If there is a dark horse in the 2003 Women’s World Cup, it is probably North Korea.  The North Koreans have defeated China three consecutives times in the championship games of Asian confederation tournaments, showing a bite on defense and ability to score critical goals.  --North Korea’s star is Ri Kum-suk, who tallied 15 goals at the 2003 Asian Championships, including both goals in the championship game, to go with her 15 scores at the 2001 Asian Championships.  
--North Korea gave the United States a tremendous fight in the first-round of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, holding the eventual champions scoreless in the first half before falling, 3-0.  
--North Korea scored an amazing 60 goals during its qualifying run for USA ’03, and allowed only three.  While North Korea rarely plays outside its country except for Asian Confederation tournaments, if the rumors are true, and North Korea does defend better than China, but has the same technical ability, plays tougher defense and are more vicious tacklers, then opponents in their first round group are in for a challenging 90 minutes.

2003 Women’s World Cup Qualification Results:

North Korea 13, Hong Kong 0
North Korea 14, Thailand 0
North Korea 16, Singapore 0
North Korea 2, South Korea 2
North Korea 3, Japan 0
North Korea 2, China 1 (OT)
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