Group B: Heavyweights meet World Cup newcomers

The Group B line-up at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ can be summed up succinctly in three words: experience versus inexperience. It will be Norway coach Even Pellerud’s fifth global showdown after leading the Scandinavians to the 1991 and 1995 finals, and doing likewise with Canada in 2003 and 2007. His Germany counterpart Silvia Neid will be on the touchline for her third World Cup as coach, having taken Germany to the 2007 and 2011 editions. The duo will therefore have a combined total of eight tournaments worth of know-how as coaches in Canada, whereas respective Côte d’Ivoire and Thailand strategists, Clementine Toure and Nuengruethai Sathongwien, will be making their World Cup debuts.

The big game *Germany - Norway, 11 June 2015, *Lansdowne Stadium, Ottawa, 16:00 local time Germany and Norway are familiar foes, having contested 38 matches to date, including fixtures at Women’s World Cups, European Championships and Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments. Neid’s Germany marginally have the upper hand historically with 19 wins to Norway’s 14, while there have been just five draws. Their meeting in the group stage will be a rematch of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 final, where goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and Anja Mittag ended Norway’s hopes of lifting the trophy. The Germany custodian and FIFA Ballon d’Or 2013 winner was seemingly unbeatable in the title-decider and saved two penalties, much to her opponents’ despair. Mittag had an almost instant impact as a second-half substitute by scoring the winning goal for Germany with one of her first touches of the ball. Memories of that encounter should ensure excitement, drama and top-quality football as Norway look to settle a score.

What else to expect The European heavyweights’ fixtures against the two World Cup debutants also promise plenty of intrigue, as the newcomers are largely unknown quantities. “It’ll be the first time Thailand and Côte d’Ivoire participate at the tournament,” Neid said after the Final Draw. “Asian teams are renowned for their strong technical ability, while you always have to take African teams seriously. They’re very strong in the tackle and usually have very quick players. Nevertheless, alongside Norway, I think we’re favourites to go through.”

Indeed, on paper at least, the underdogs’ chances of reaching the Round of 16 appear to be slim, as Thailand are currently 30th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking and Côte d’Ivoire are 64th. It could therefore be decisive when the debutants go head to head, with defeat potentially ending the losers’ hopes of progressing to the next round. “When you play against big teams you can also become a big team,” Côte d’Ivoire coach Toure said of her side’s prospects against two of the game’s strongest sides. “We are here to learn and to play against our teachers.”