Friday 10 April 2015, 12:54

Favourites on song, dark horses show promise

Preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ are in full swing. With the big event approaching fast, several of the qualifying nations have spent the last few weeks contesting valuable warm-up games. Those matches have seen Germany and USA confirm their status as favourites, while a clutch of tournament newcomers, among them Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain, have also posted encouraging results.

Germany outclass Brazil “I’m completely in love with my team,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid on interview with national TV channel ARD after watching her side stroll to a 4-0 defeat of Brazil in Furth. Lying seventh in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, A Seleçao were no match for Die Mannschaft, who are brimming with confidence in the build-up to Canada 2015.

Celia Sasic gave Germany the lead from the penalty spot in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 15,043, with Simone Laudehr doubling the hosts’ advantage a few minutes later. Melanie Leupolz and Dzsenifer Marozsan were on target in the second half as the Germans ran out easy winners.

Not to be outdone, USA staged a show of strength of their own, putting four past New Zealand without reply before a crowd of 35,817 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Playing their first home game of the year, the Stars and Stripes took a first-half lead through Meghan Klingenberg, with Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston and Morgan Brian all finding the back of the net in a five-minute purple patch late on.

“I was pleased,” said USA coach Jill Ellis afterwards. “I thought there were a lot of positives, not only scoring goals but also creating chances with players coming off the bench who helped us. We talked about working on keeping clean sheets so I’m pleased with that. Obviously, our back line was tremendous on both sides of the ball.”

France edge Canada France entertained the upcoming world finals hosts in an eagerly awaited match at the Stade Robert Bobin near Paris, where nearly 11,500 fans watched the home side shade a tight encounter thanks to Eugenie Le Sommer’s 34th-minute goal. Les Bleues ably held on to their lead to record a win that will do their confidence no harm at all.

Meanwhile, fellow world finalists England remain on a high after their Cyprus Cup triumph. Mark Sampson’s side maintained their pre-world finals momentum with a 2-1 defeat of China PR, with Jodie Taylor and Fran Kirby getting on the scoresheet for the English in their last outing before Canada 2015, and Shanshan Wang replying for the Chinese.

Debutants on the up “There are going to be surprises for sure. I think the Netherlands, Spain and maybe Thailand have got what it takes to do something,” said Steffi Jones in an interview with (to be published in full on the site on Saturday). Judging by recent friendly results achieved by some tournament dark horses, the former Germany international could well be spot on with her prediction.

Much-fancied Switzerland underlined their ability to compete against top-class opposition by beating six-time world-finalists Sweden 3-1 in Tunavallen. Ramona Bachmann, Fabienne Humm and Vanessa Bernauer were the women on target for Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side. The Swedes had the chance to get back on track at home to neighbours Denmark a few days later, but had to settle for a disappointing 3-3 draw, giving coach Pia Sundhage further cause for concern.

Norway, who have been drawn against Germany in the group phase at Canada 2015, had trouble of their own against another world finals debutant, going down 3-2 to the Netherlands, the Dutch atoning for a 2-1 reverse away to Iceland four days earlier.

Another side bracing themselves for a Women’s World Cup debut is Spain, who tuned up with a 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland in Gijon, the only goal of the game coming from Jennifer Hermoso. Meanwhile, Australia, who reached the last eight of the competition in 2007 and 2011, have plenty to ponder following their last two outings. Beaten 2-1 by Austria, the Matildas* *were then held to a 1-1 draw by Scotland a few days later.