(Throughout the week, we will go through every group and let you know what to look for and what to expect in the Women’s World Cup)
Group D is tough. I have never seen a World Cup (men or women) where three teams from the top 10 in FIFA rankings are in the same group. There’s a realistic chance that one of the favorites to win the World Cup will not get out of the group stage. Many view Group D as the “Group of Death” and that may be true looking at this lineup.
Group D Teams:
United States (2nd in FIFA Rankings); Sweden (5th in FIFA Rankings); Australia (10th in FIFA Rankings); Nigeria (33rd in FIFA Rankings)
Group D Schedule (All Games on FOX Networks):
Monday, June 8 — Sweden vs. Nigeria — 4:00 PM ET, FOX
Monday, June 8 — United States vs. Australia — 7:30 PM ET, FOX Sports 1
Friday, June 12 — Australia vs. Nigeria — 5:00 PM ET, FOX Sports 1
Friday, June 12 — United States vs. Sweden — 8:00 PM ET, FOX
Tuesday, June 16 — Australia vs. Sweden — 8:00 PM ET, FOX Sports 1
Tuesday, June 16 — Nigeria vs. United States — 8:00 PM ET, FOX
Player to Watch in Group D: Alex Morgan – United States
I know Alex Morgan is one of the most recognizable people in women’s soccer so when I mention her as a player to watch, I’m not talking about her in the sense that she’s an “under the radar” player. No, the reason I talk about Alex Morgan as a player to watch is to watch whether or not she actually plays. Morgan has been injured for the past couple months with a knee injury and hasn’t even been back in full training with the team. She is definitely not going to be 100% but the USWNT depend on her to compete because they looked rather flat when she’s not playing. That could be the reason why the United States struggles in this World Cup.
X-Factor in Group D: Can the United States recover from their struggles in friendlies?
The United States has been rather lackluster in their latest friendlies. The latest friendly, a 0-0 draw to South Korea, really has raised a lot of questions at the worst possible time. Is Alex Morgan’s injury going to hurt the team? Are players like Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx too old to make a noticeable impact in the World Cup? Has everyone else caught up to the United States and the US hasn’t improved as much to remain favorites? Who used to be favorites to be World Cup champions (many still believe they’re favorites), it may be much tougher to win in 2015 than the USWNT realized. We may find out those answers to those questions very early in this group.
Odds of Winning Women’s World Cup (Westgate): United States (5/2), Sweden (10/1), Australia (40/1), Nigeria (150/1)
Most Important Game: United States vs. Sweden
This game will be huge for everyone involved. A group stage game that could be a Final. The USWNT at 2nd is going against 5th ranked Sweden. Not to mention, the United States will be going against former manager Pia Sundhage. Sundhage managed the United States in the 2011 World Cup and if there’s anyone who knows this US team and be able to defeat this US team, it’ll be Sundhage. A good performance by the USWNT team here will foreshadow how they will possibly compete in the knockout stage.
This is also a huge game for FOX Sports. The USA/Sweden game will be on regular FOX in prime time TV. This is unprecedented in the soccer world. Even the men didn’t have the prime time network TV luxury that the women will have this year. This could be a ratings bonanza in the United States.
Teams To Automatically Move On: United States and Sweden
Out of the three teams likely to move on (sorry Nigeria), Australia seems like they’re the weakest of the three. Unless the three teams draw against each other like crazy, they all should have the points so whoever the 3rd place team is will be able to advance to the Knockout Stage. Having said that, I would never want to rely on that.