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GROUP D

RUSSIA vs. AUSTRALIA

September 21, 2003|Paul Gutierrez

at Home Depot Center

5:30 p.m., Galavision

How they got there: Russia, the 11th-ranked team in the world, won Group 3 of the European Women's World Cup Qualifying, edging Iceland. Australia, ranked 15th, won the Oceania championship to qualify, beating New Zealand, 2-0, in the final.

Players to watch: Russian goalkeeper Svetlana Petko, 33, was in the box for Russia's first women's national team game in 1990 and, with more than 130 caps, her experience could prove pivotal. Attacking midfielder Alexandra Svetlitskaya is a threat from anywhere on the field. With Australia hurting for goals, it was only appropriate that a defender, Cheryl Salisbury, scored for the Matildas in their recent 1-0 exhibition win over Scotland. Salisbury was one of four Australians who played last season in the WUSA.

Previous appearances: Russia was a surprise in 1999, going 2-2 while advancing to the quarterfinals in its first World Cup appearance, where it fell to eventual runner-up China, 2-0. Australia has yet to win a World Cup match (0-5-1) after the Matildas finished last in 1995 and 11th in 1999.

Quick look: This match should be for second place in the group -- behind China -- and the quarterfinal berth that comes with it. It's an early test for both teams, especially for goal-starved Australia. The Russians could give Australia fits with their defensive-minded approach and stingy goalkeeper.

-- Paul Gutierrez

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