The 2011 World Cup will open with two-time reigning champions Germany taking on Canada on June 26 in the Group A opener while world number one United States once again will take on North Korea and Sweden in the group stage.
German coach Silvia Neid’s team also will face off against Nigeria and France.
“The coaches are happy that we know who is in the group and now we can work and think over the Christmas break about who can play and who we need to watch,” said Neid on German station ZDF directly after the draw.
“We will take who comes to us and live with that.”
Germany – the reigning European champions as well – beat African champions Nigeria 8-0 in a friendly on November 25 and knocked off Canada 5-0 in a friendly on September 15.
But the Germans expect a different Canada team to show up for the opener.
“That was not the benchmark. That was a friendly and we scored goals late (the last three in the 76th, 79th and 83rd). I don’t think the game will go like that again,” said two-time world champion and three-time World Cup finalist Birgit Prinz.
Canada’s top showing at a World Cup was fourth place at USA 2003.
The runners-up from 2007 in China Brazil were drawn into Group D along with Australia, Norway and debutants Equatorial Guinea.
Brazil – led by superstar Marta – also have finished third at USA 1999 but have a tough showdown against Norway. The Europeans have a storied World Cup history, winning the crown in 1995 – against Germany – after losing to the U.S. in the 1991 final. Norway also claimed fourth place in 1999 and 2007.
Group B is topped by Japan, who have likely the easiest road of any of the group headers with matches against New Zealand, Mexico (who beat the U.S. in qualifying) and England.
And the United States were drawn into the closest thing to a Group of Death in Group C with North Korea, Colombia and Sweden.
If that combination looks familiar to women’s World Cup football fans it should.
Over the past three World Cups, the U.S. and North Korea have been in the same group each time with Sweden being a third team in 2003 and 2007. Nigeria was teamed with the U.S. and North Korea in all three Cups while Denmark was in the group in 1999.
North Korea beat Denmark in 1999 but lost to Nigeria (2-1) and the U.S. (3-0) in failing to advance. In 2003 the Asians beat Nigeria but lost to Sweden (1-0) and the U.S. (3-0) and again failed to move into the quarters. But that changed in 2007 as North Korea drew with the U.S. 2-2 to start the group before beating Nigeria 2-0 and then losing to Sweden 2-1 – enough to advance to the last eight, where they lost to eventual champs Germany 3-0 in the quarters.
The United States failed to qualify automatically to Germany 2011, losing to Mexico and then having to beat Italy in a two-leg playoff 2-0 on aggregate to qualify.