Group E could quietly become the most entertaining quartet in the Women’s World Cup. Brazil, Spain, Korea Republic and Costa Rica are all technical teams with playmakers who serve as their respective engines.
Marta is the five-time FIFA World Player of the Year and possibly the most brilliant individual player the game has ever seen. Veronica Boquete is the Spanish playmaker who is easily among the best in the world today. Shirley Cruz is the maestro in the middle of the park for Costa Rica and Ji Soyun plays provider and goal-scorer for Korea Republic.
That all four of these teams ended up in the same group is serendipitous; they are perfect match-ups for each other as Brazil is the only one of the four teams that can really handle physicality if faced with it.
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Group E Schedule
June 9: Spain vs Costa Rica (Montreal, 4 pm ET)
June 9: Brazil vs Korea Republic (Montreal, 7 pm ET)
June 13: Brazil vs Spain (Montreal, 4 pm ET)
June 13: Korea Republic vs Costa Rica (Montreal, 7 pm ET)
June 17: Costa Rica vs Brazil (Moncton, 7 pm ET)
June 17: Korea Republic vs Spain (Ottawa, 7 pm ET)
World Ranking: No. 7
Previous World Cups: 1991 (group stage), 1995 (group stage), 1999 (3rd place), 2003 (quarterfinals), 2007 (runners-up), 2011 (quarterfinals)
Ah, Brazil. The queens of underachievement are heavy favorites in this group as the seeded team and expected to advance first out of the group. If they do that, they would get the second-place finisher out of Group D, which could one one of their old foes — the United States or Sweden. The difficult Round of 16 match that looms could see Brazil make its earliest exit ever given the expanded tournament format, a scary prospect for a federation that finally just invested in its women’s program with an 18-month residency that will last through the 2016 Olympics in Rio. There’s been an injection of youth alongside the usual names of Marta, Cristiane, Rosana and Formiga (who, along with Japan’s Homare Sawa, will play in her record sixth World Cup). As always, Brazil is a wild card, capable of making a deep run but equally expected to implode.
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Coach: Ignacio Quereda
World Ranking: No. 14
Previous World Cups: None
As Boquete – known simply as “Vero” – puts it, Spain players are playing for more than just themselves at this World Cup; they are playing to earn respect back home in a machismo country. Boquete will be the pulse of La Roja, but she’ll need support from others like Jenny Hermoso, Alexia Putellas and Vicky Losada. Natalia was the team’s leading scorer during qualifying with 12 goals in 10 games. Spain qualified by finishing unbeaten. Spain is expected to come out of this group in second place, but Korea Republic and Costa Rica will serve as stiff challenges.
Coach: Yoon Deok-Yeo
World Ranking: No. 18
Previous World Cups: 2003 (group stage)
Ji Soyun might be the least known to the North American crowd of the four spotlighted players in this group, but the 24-year-old is coming into her prime right as she enters the world’s biggest stage. She is the reigning player of the year in England’s FA WSL after tearing up the league with Chelsea. On Saturday, she made her soft introduction to the American crowd with an impressive performance against the United States in a scoreless friendly draw. Korea Republic will be one of the youngest teams at the Women’s World Cup, but after recent successes at youth World Cups, that isn’t a bad thing.
Coach: Amelia Valverde
World Ranking: No. 37
Previous World Cups: None
Las Ticas were the success story of CONCACAF qualifying in October, carrying over the impressive run that their men’s team made a last summer’s World Cup into the women’s game. Shirley Cruz was impressive as expected, but so too were newer names like 23-year-old forward Carolina Venegas (who scored a memorable bicycle kick) and 25-year-old forward Wendy Acosta. Cruz is a pioneer for Costa Rica as the first and still only player to ply her trade in Europe. She won two UEFA Champions League titles with Lyon before switching to rival PSG. Now, Cruz, as the world’s biggest stage to show off her talents. How Costa Rica lines up will be interesting to see, as Garabet Avedissian made the oddly-timed decision to leave his post after guiding Costa Rica into the World Cup all while playing inspiring soccer.