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WOMEN'S WORLD CUP REPORT

Canada Dry? Loss Would End Hopes

September 27, 2003|From Times Wire Services

Canada's run in the Women's World Cup could be over today before it even has a chance to really get started.

Led by Coach Even Pellerud, who guided his native Norway to the championship in 1995, Canada had been labeled by many as a darkhorse team to possibly challenge world powers such as the United States and China.

But anything short of a victory today against Japan in a Group C game at Foxboro, Mass., will send Canada home.

"We desperately need to regain confidence and play to our strengths," said Pellerud, after an unconvincing 3-0 victory Wednesday over Argentina. Japan defeated Argentina, 6-0.

Canada and Japan have three points, but the Japanese hold a better goal differential and basically need only a tie to advance second in the group behind Germany -- assuming the Germans defeat the Argentines at Washington as expected.

Canadian hopes today may hinge on whether its players can take advantage of a size differential to outmuscle Japan.

"We need to be more direct and exploit our strengths," said Canada forward Christine Latham, who scored two goals against Argentina.

Japan has participated in all four Women's World Cups but has advanced past the group stage only once. The players seem confident this time.

"We're very optimistic," Japan striker Homare Sawa said, "and we're more than ready to take on Canada."

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The picture in Group B remains muddled, even for leader Brazil, which has been one of the tournament's most impressive teams after two games.

Although the Brazilians lead the group with six points, they still have not clinched a quarterfinal spot and need at least a tie against France today at Washington to ensure passage.

Norway plays winless and goalless South Korea in the other group game at Foxboro with countless scenarios on advancement still possible.

The most simple -- and probably most likely -- scenario would have Brazil and Norway winning, thus putting both countries into the quarterfinals.

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Suddenly, Sweden has become the United States' biggest fan.

After losing its opening game to the U.S., 3-1, Sweden followed that with a 1-0 victory over North Korea, which plays the U.S. on Sunday at Columbus, Ohio.

Sweden plays Nigeria in the opening game of the Columbus doubleheader and needs a victory to improve its quarterfinal chances. Of course, a U.S. victory over the North Koreans would ease Sweden's burden.

"We have to cheer for the United States to win," Sweden forward Victoria Svensson said.

Because the U.S. needs only a point to clinch a berth, some Swedish players are worried the Americans will be motivated to play for only a tie.

"I hope they don't do that and I don't think they will," Sweden's Hanna Ljungberg said. "I think the U.S. wants to win all their games. They don't want to lose at home, so I think the U.S. will win that game too."

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U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly is expecting a tougher North Korean team than the one the Americans defeated, 3-0, in the 1999 tournament.

"You can expect a very organized, quick and technical team," Lilly said. "That's what teams from Asia are like. We played them in 1999 and every team from that World Cup is better, so I'm sure they have improved as well. I've heard a lot of good things about them."

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