Women’s World Cup — Day 3 Preview

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For many in the United States, the 2015 Women’s World Cup begins Monday night when the United States women get their tournament started against Australia.  The holders are also in action as Japan begins defending a global championship for the first time.  Here’s a look:

Group D – Sweden vs Nigeria
Monday, 4 p.m. EDT
Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM

Sweden struggled with some up-and-down results ahead of this World Cup.  But don’t tell that to Nigeria coach Edwin Okon, who denied any knowledge about the Swedish side ahead of the match.  He was fibbing of course, but the underlying takeaway is that he is not prepared to offer much of a window into how his side will place as underdogs in the group.  Certainly Okon knows of Lotta Schelin, who is one of the great players of her generation and one without a major trophy to her name.  At 31, it could be proverbial last best chance, at least at the World Cup.

[MORE: Complete TV schedule  |  PST’s Women’s World Cup coverage]

The Super Falcons, long the dominant team on Africa and long known for physical play, will be no easy match for anyone else in the group.  Asisat Oshoala, 20, was marvelous at the U-20 World Cup last summer and Francisca Ordega, 21, has turned heads with the Washington Spirit.  They could be two of the keys that help transform Nigeria into a more technical side, and that could be on full display against a Sweden team whose back four is not totally stable at the moment.

Group C – Cameroon vs Ecuador
Monday, 7 pm EDT
BC Place, Vancouver
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM

Two more debut sides square off to open Group C play.  Any team passing through BC Place will have it in the backs of their minds that the World Cup trophy will be presented there on July 5.  Neither of these two have any realistic chance to play that match, but they clearly have a realistic chance to open their World Cup histories with some points.  Both teams will be something of a mystery to most fans, though Ecuador was briefly in the spotlight when they played and beat Trinidad and Tobago last fall for the right to be in this tournament.  Unfortunately for both sides they are likely to remain a mystery with much of the game opposite the United States match.

Group D – United States vs Australia
Monday, 7:30 pm EDT
Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM (also on NBC Universo)

The World Cup finally begins for the United States.  Australia is a team they have handled quite well over the years, but they are also a team with talent that can capitalize if the U.S. stagnates as they have at times this year.  Coach Jill Ellis on Sunday declared Alex Morgan available for selection but would not discuss a lineup.  Morgan has not played since April 11 and trained Sunday with tape on her injured left knee.

[KASSOUF: US women must deal with Australia’s speed  |  And distractions]

NWSL fans will be familiar with many of Australia’s top players.  Sam Kerr and Caitlyn Foord are both young, quick, and dynamic, and Lisa De Vanna, when on, is one of the most unique and difficult to defend players in the world.

Group C – Japan vs Switzerland
Monday, 10 pm EDT
BC Place, Vancouver
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM

This will be the month when we begin to see if Japan is more likely to be a sustained world power or whether 2011 and 2012 was their brief window to shine.  Their precise, technical style certainly plays well in these types of tournaments, and they were able to talk Homare Sawa out of retirement to play in what will be her record sixth World Cup.

Regardless of how good they are, Japan figure to have little trouble escaping the group as they are the only team with any World Cup history whatsoever.  Switzerland, however, is expected to be the toughest of their three opponents.  The player to watch for the Swiss is Ramona Bachman, a 24-year-old wizard on the ball who could be one of the players the world learns about over the next few weeks.