After a tense period of waiting, the 16 trophy contenders now know who they face at the group stage. presents an analysis of the groups and reaction to the draw.


Group A: Draw favours holders

Of all the top teams, reigning world champions Germany would appear to have the easiest task - on paper at least. The Germans faced Japan and Argentina at the group stage in 2003, and have played England twice in the recent past, winning 5-1 at home before a goalless draw at the Four Nations tournament in China. However, the English are a rapidly improving proposition under coach Hope Powell and drew with the USA, currently ranked number one in the world, at the Four Nations tournament. The Japanese gave evidence of their status as an emerging power at a tournament in Cyprus last February and in the  play-offs against Mexico , while Argentina are determined to prove their success against Brazil was no one-off.

Group B: Elite clustered in one section
Group B looks to be the toughest as it contains three of the five best nations in the world. The USA rate as favourites, but Korea DPR could be the surprise package in China, not least on the basis of their  world championship-winning U-20 team . Sweden's fine showing at the Algarve Cup indicated the 2003 finalists are as good as ever when it comes to international showdowns, and Germany discovered just how difficult it can be against serial African champions Nigeria in a tight victory at the Athens Olympics. Only the brave or foolhardy would dare to predict the outcome in this group.

Group C: Intercontinental clash of titans
European Championship runners-up Norway will be considered favourites by their group opponents, an opinion shared by most observers as the Scandinavians undoubtedly rate as realistic trophy contenders in China. Canada's Norwegian coach Even Pellerud will have no qualms about spoiling the potential party, but the increasingly powerful Australians will surely command a say in the allocation of the quarter-final berths. Ghana's potential at major tournaments was clearly evident at the African championships: the Ghanaians have little to lose and could prove the jokers in the pack. 

Group D: Growing euphoria surrounds host nation
China PR's opponents are already licking their lips in anticipation of playing in front of passionate fans at stadiums packed to capacity. The host nation have engaged experienced coach  Marika Domanski-Lyfors  in an effort to recover from a series of setbacks in recent months, while Brazil are certain to be there or thereabouts in the final analysis, as their performance at the Olympics pointed to a customary reservoir of potential. Denmark and single-minded coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller rate as dangerous floaters following their serene progress to the Algarve Cup Final in March, while  New Zealand  will be looking to accumulate valuable experience on the international stage.

Group A reaction

Silvia Neid (coach): I'm very happy with the draw. It won't be easy, as none of our opponents qualified for the World Cup by accident. They belong among the best teams in the world by right. We'll start taking a close look at it as of next week. If we make it to the quarter-finals, we'll face an extremely tough task.
Conny Pohlers (player): England will be our most difficult opponents, but in any case, we won't fall into the trap of underestimating any team at the World Cup.

Hiroshi Ohashi (coach): You can't choose your opponents, but we'll give the group our best shot. We'll be playing in Shanghai, a city I love. I hope we'll get some support from the fans there.

Hope Powell (coach). I'm delighted with the group and I'm really looking forward to playing the reigning world champions. We don't really know a lot about Japan and Argentina.
Rachel Brown (player): Germany are no strangers to us, we've played them twice in the recent past.

Salvador Stumbo (Argentine Football Association, chairman of women's football): It's hardly an easy draw for us, but we're determined to do a good job.

Group B

Cynthia Uwak (player): It's a tough group, but we definitely have a chance of qualifying for the next round, and we're ready and willing to face every team.
Greg Ryan (coach): It's not easy to comment on this group because they're all difficult opponents. We start in Chengdu against Korea DPR, and I have the highest respect for them. They're very strong both physically and mentally. Sweden are one of the favourites in my opinion, and I believe Australia and Canada could spring a surprise.
Kristine Lilly (player): I'm very excited about the draw. It doesn't really matter who's in our group, as there's no such thing as an easy match.
Korea DPR
Kim Sun Hui (international referee and youth coach): It's definitely a very tough group, but we've already faced all the other teams. We're not afraid of anyone.

Thomas Dennerby (coach): We have three of the five best teams in the world in our group, which tells you everything. Our match against Korea DPR will probably be a decider in terms of qualifying for the next round. 

Group C
Bjarne Berntsen
(coach): It's a very interesting, very athletic group. But it could have been worse - just look at Group B.
Bente Nordby (player): We must not underestimate any of our group opponents, so it's too early to predict whether we can win the group.
Adjoa Bayor (player): We know about all our opponents, so the draw isn't that bad. Norway will be the toughest match, but we're confident of making the next round as group winners.
Tom Sermanni (coach): All our group rivals are very good, and Canada and Norway are physically strong. Ghana possess talented and extremely quick players. But if we play to our full potential, we could shock the world.
Cheryl Salisbury (player): I'm happy with the draw. Norway appear to be the strongest team, but we have a great chance against the other two.

Andrea Neil (player): Every team in our group starts with the same chance. Our Norwegian coach Even Pellerud has told us Norway will be difficult opponents.

Group D

China PR
Marika Domanski-Lyfors (coach): Sweden and China have been hit hardest by this draw. Brazil made the 2004 Olympics Final and Denmark were in the Algarve Cup Final this year. 
Han Duan (player): We all have the same goal, so it really doesn't matter who you play. We simply have to make our ability count, and make sure we prepare well for the tournament.

Kenneth Heiner-Moller
(coach): I'm especially looking forward to the match against China, as we have a score to settle from the 2006 Algarve Cup. But I'm expecting them to be strong at the World Cup. Brazil are technically excellent, and New Zealand will be very motivated. 
Gitte Andersen (player): Playing China in front of a huge crowd will be fantastic. The Brazilians are capable of things we never see in Europe. I'd really don't know much about New Zealand.

New Zealand
Maia Jackman (player): I'd been hoping we'd be drawn against China, as I'm friends with Han Duan. We played them a couple of times recently and picked up useful experience.
Michelle Cox (New Zealand Association, head of women's football): We're hoping to learn a huge amount from the tournament. I think it's tremendous we're playing the host nation, because there's a large Chinese community in New Zealand.

Daniela (player): The draw has placed us in a very difficult group, but I'm confident we'll hit peak form at the World Cup. We have the Pan-American Games coming up in Rio de Janeiro this July, and that's got to be the best way of preparing.