Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports
By CAITLIN MURRAY
American soccer fans who have unpleasant memories of the moment the U.S. Men’s National Team drew the Group of Death last year may have felt a bit of deja vu Saturday.
The U.S Women’s National Team were drawn into Group D to face Sweden, Australia and Nigeria next summer in Canada.
USWNT forward Alex Morgan, recovering from injury, was on hand for Fox Sports’ live draw coverage and confirmed what many fans were thinking: “We got the toughest countries in all the pots,” she said. “It’s definitely the Group of Death.”
Sweden, the non-seeded team that would’ve made any group a possible Group of Death, is the only team in the entire tournament that has beaten the USWNT in the past two years. Sweden coach Pia Sundhage led the USWNT to silver in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and Olympic gold in 2012 before taking over in Sweden.
Australia, ranked 10th in the world, behind No. 1-ranked U.S. and No. 5-ranked Sweden, features some top talent that plays alongside Americans in the National Women’s Soccer League and represents a historically tough opponent for the Americans.
Nigeria is a bit of a wild card — the last time the USWNT played them was on Sept. 18, 2007, winning 1-0. But Nigeria is widely considered the toughest team from the African federation, having won the African Women’s Championship this year.
To advance to the knockouts, teams must finish in the top two of their group after a round robin of group play. The four best third-place teams will also advance to the Round of 16.
Hosts Canada drew one of the tougher groups, facing New Zealand and the Netherlands. Germany, a sure contender to win the tournament, made off with perhaps the easiest group thanks to an expanded field of 24 teams from 16 last cycle. Reigning champs Japan also face an easier group of all first-time qualifying countries.
Here are all the groups for the 2015 Women’s World Cup:
What do you think of the draw? What does the Group of Death mean for the USWNT and coach Jill Ellis? What do you think about the other groups?
Share your thoughts below.