Marta set to sparkle against Kiwis
© AFP

New Zealand make a high-profile return to the competition after a 16-year absence and have high hopes of giving Brazil, ranked among the tournament favourites, a run for their money. Lining up against them will be Marta, last year's FIFA Women's World Player, who will be seeking to get her side's bid for the title off to the best possible start.

The game
New Zealand-Brazil, Wuhan, Wednesday 12 September 2007, 17:00 (local time).

The stakes
Fresh from claiming the FIFA Women's World Player Award in 2006 and collecting gold at the Pan-American Games, Marta is raring to lead Brazil's medal challenge at China 2007. And for their part, the fans are hoping Jorge Barcellos's team can produce a liberal sprinkling of Auriverde magic and show that Brazil's girls can have just as much fun as their illustrious male counterparts.

One veteran making her return to the Far East is Kiwi striker Wendi Henderson, who appeared in the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup here in 1991. The only survivor of that team, Henderson is the leader of a relatively youthful squad that nevertheless features two other old hands in defenders Maia Jackman and Rebecca Smith.

The players
Brazil's Elaine is suspended for her country's opener after picking up a red card in the final game of the South American Women's Championship, while team-mate Rosana has yet to recover fully from a recent shoulder operation. As for the New Zealanders, coach John Herdman has a full squad to choose from.

The past
Respective coaches Barcellos and Herdman were also in charge for the only previous meeting between the two nations at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006. The match ended in a goalless draw, and following the tournament the two tacticians graduated to the full national sides. The records books point to a difficult afternoon for the Antipodeans for Brazil have never lost an opening game, whereas the Kiwis have yet to win a match in a FIFA women's tournament.

The words
We want to get off on the right foot and pick up the three points you always need for a good start. We are a little nervous and tense and are anxious to get going. In our first training sessions here in China we've been trying to control that anxiety so we can play good football. Having won gold at the Pan-American Games I've got a lot of confidence in the team, but we know they are two very different tournaments and that it will be difficult to come out champions again - Jorge Barcellos, Brazil coach

The first game of a World Cup always generates a little nervousness and excitement. It's a great challenge to be facing a team like Brazil in your opening game. We know there are no easy games in World Cup, so there's no better way to start than with an opportunity to surprise one of the big favourites. It will be a real David versus Goliath battle. Even so, we are pretty hopeful ahead of the game, and we believe our work rate and discipline can knock the Brazilians out of their rhythm - John Herdman, New Zealand coach