Intrigue awaits in Group B

Group B encompasses a fascinating mix of football styles, with each of the four participants undoubtedly possessing at least a degree of optimism about their chances of progression to the knockout stage. The two highest ranked teams, Japan and England, will be favourites and the contest between the pair will be key to the outcome of the group. However both the rapidly improving New Zealand, and Mexico - conquerors of the mighty USA in qualifying - are well capable of advancing, and prospective opponents will underestimate them at their peril.

The favourites Japan: Japan find themselves in the unprecedented position of being the highest-ranked team in their group at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Currently ranked No5 in the world, the Nadeshiko have yet to impress on the world’s greatest stage having appeared in the quarter-finals just once across five tournaments. However, they have progressed stealthily and rapidly in recent years and are now regular challengers at youth levels, making it as far as the final of this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. With a good blend of experience and youth, this technically gifted Japan side would appear to have all the necessary tools to make history at Germany 2011.

The players to watch Homare Sawa (JPN), Aya Miyama (JPN), Mana Iwabuchi (JPN), Kelly Smith (ENG), Fara Williams (ENG), Ali Riley (NZL), Rosie White (NZL), Maribel Dominguez (MEX)

The crunch match Japan-England: This pair played out a riveting 2-2 draw at China 2007 in what was the only previous contest at a FIFA Women’s World Cup between any of the group’s four competitors. That match ultimately saw England take the runners-up berth in the group, but this time around the outcome of the match will likely determine first place and, if results go as expected, mean avoiding a quarter-final match-up against host nation Germany.

The stat 3 – Japan have won just three matches from 16 FIFA Women’s World Cup outings but Norio Sasaki’s charges are better equipped than ever to lay waste to that statistic.

Have your say Will the group favorites Japan and England progress, or can New Zealand or Mexico upset the odds? Click on 'Add your comment' to make your opinion known.