Monday Kicks: Women’s World Cup draw & more

i-fcf78654447167430d9a9df647bed62a-WC2011draw.jpgAnd the groups are: Next summer’s Women’s World Cup schedule is set after today’s draw in Frankfurt, Germany (AP Photo).

*More details on today’s draw for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany are here.

Here’s the tournament schedule.

And here’s reaction to the draw in this story from Associated Press writer Nancy Armour:

The United States wound up with what could be the toughest group at next summer’s Women’s World Cup, drawing North Korea, Colombia and Sweden on Monday.

The top-ranked Americans were the last team to qualify for the 16-nation tournament, beating Italy in a home-and-home playoff on Saturday after being stunned by Mexico in the semifinals of regional qualifying. Still, the U.S. is a top seed, as are two-time defending champion Germany, Japan and Brazil. The tournament will be played June 26 to July 17 at nine sites in Germany.

“It’s good because it’s a very strong group. That’s the best thing that could happen to us,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said Monday from the draw in Frankfurt, Germany. “That will be inspiring for us, the fact we’re playing high-ranked teams like Sweden and North Korea and a new team, Colombia, which will be so enthusiastic going into the World Cup.”

Sweden is No. 4 in the latest world rankings while North Korea is sixth. Germany is the only other seeded team to draw two top-10 opponents, with No. 8 France and No. 9 Canada joining Nigeria in Group A.

The U.S. opens June 28 against North Korea, the fourth straight time these nations will meet in the group stage. The Americans beat the North Koreans 3-0 in 1999 and 2003, but tied 2-2 in 2007.

“At the time, we had a very experienced team, now we have a very young, inexperienced team and I am a little bit worried,” North Korea coach Kim Kwang-min said through an interpreter. “Maybe we can win with our spirit. After the last World Cup, we went through a change of generations and it was successful.”

The North Koreans have had impressive results at the youth level, winning the 2006 Under-20 and 2008 Under-17 World Cups. North Korea was the runner-up to the Americans at the 2008 Under-20 World Cup.

“The new team is very young and inexperienced, but very ambitious,” Kim said. “We don’t have high aims, but to do as well as we can.”

The U.S. will face World Cup newcomer Colombia on July 2 and finish group play four days later against Sweden, the team Sundhage played for at the 1991 and ’95 World Cups.

“It’s just a little bit weird before and after,” Sundhage said. “But during the game, it’s
like coaching against any team, actually.”

The Americans won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 and have finished no worse than third. They also are the defending Olympic champions and have won all but one gold medal since women’s soccer was added to the Olympic program in 1996.

“I’m happy to know who we’re playing,” U.S. defender Ali Krieger said. “It’s definitely going to be tough, but each group has really tough teams, really strong teams. We’re not going to be looking ahead to the semifinal or final, we have to really focus on the group stage. “But because we have such a strong group, we’re going to be very motivated to play well.”

*In other women’s soccer news, the Sol have returned – sort of – and will field pro teams, one in the Bay Area, the other in Orange County, in the largely amateur Women’s Premier Soccer League. Former Sol Coach Abner Rogers will coach the Southern California Sol.

*A belated tip of the hat to Palos Verdes Estates’ Christen Press, who just can’t stop scoring for Stanford in the NCAA Tournament.

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