February 28, 2011

Algarve Cup - Group B Preview

Group B of the 2011 Algarve Cup features Sweden, China, Denmark, and Iceland. While all of those teams are strong sides, only Sweden qualified for the 2011 World Cup. Perhaps not so surprising, they bring the most veteran Group B team to Portugal.

Interestingly, Sweden and Denmark met last September in a critical two-match playoff for a World Cup berth. After winning the first leg 2-1, Sweden fell behind 2-0 to Denmark in the return match. Sweden rallied to take the berth, while Denmark went on to lose a further playoff match and did not make it.

With a young, rebounding China team and an always competitive team from Iceland, Group B should provide us with some interesting soccer.

Shang Ruihua
World Rank: #13
World Cup: Failed to qualify after losing the 3rd place match to Japan 0-2 at the Asian Cup.

Latest Results:
Four Nations Tournament: Lost to Canada 2-3, Defeated Sweden 2-1 , Lost to USA 0-2.
Friendlies: Lost to USA 1-2, Tied USA 1-1.

Algarve Cup Preliminary Training Roster:
Zhang Yanru, Huang Luna, Zhang Yue.
Additional Players: Zhou Gaoping (D), Li Danyang (D), Wang Dongni (D), Xuwen Jia (MF), Sun Ling (MF), Pang Fengyue (MF), Bi Yan (MF), Wang Lingling (MF), Qu Shanshan (MF), Gu Yasha (MF), Zhang Na (MF), Ma Jun (F), You Jia (F), Ma Xiaoxu (F), Li Lin (F), Wang Hang (F), Wu Min, Zhou Feifei, Gong Yuan Lu.

The Chinese team failed to qualify for the World Cup after finishing 4th at the Asian Cup last year and followed that with a 4th place finish at the Asian Games. They did score a 2-1 upset over Sweden at the Four Nations Tournament which they hosted. They also nearly defeated the United States last fall, settling for a 1-1 tie after the US scored a late goal.

Han Duan, Chinese second all-time leading scorer with 100 goals, will reportedly not be at Algarve. You Jia was one of the stars of the Four Nations Tournament, scoring twice against Canada and another against Sweden. Bi Yan is among China’s all-time leaders in caps.

Zhou Gaoping is one of China’s top young defenders. Zhang Yanru is China’s number one goalkeeper, but 20-year old Zhang Yue has been getting more looks and appears to be an emerging keeper on the Chinese team.

The Chinese roster for this tournament is a young one. They will be attempting to rebound from last year’s disappointment to return to the prominence of the 1999 team that finished runner-up at the World Cup.

Coach: Kenneth Heiner-Møller
World Rank:
World Cup: Failed to qualify after winning UEFA Group 3, losing to Sweden by 3-4 aggregate, then losing to Switzerland by 1-3 aggregate.

Latest Results:
UEFA WC Playoff Rounds: Lost to Sweden 1-2, Tied Sweden 2-2 (extra time), Lost to Denmark 1-3, Tied Denmark 0-0.
UEFA WC Qualifying (since July, 2010): Tied Scotland 0-0.

Algarve Cup Roster:
Heidi Elgaard Johansen, Tine Cederkvist Viskær.
Defenders: Christina Øyangen Ørntoft, Janni Amth Jensen, Katrine Pedersen, Line Røddik Hansen, Line Sigvardsen Jensen, Mette Vestergaard Jensen.
Midfielders: Katrine Korsgaard, Katrine Veje, Sif Rykær, Sine Hovesen, Theresa Nielsen.
Forwards: Julie Rydahl Bukh, Kristine Pedersen, Lisa Overgaard Munk, Merete Greisen, Nadia Nadim, Pemille Mosegaard Harder, Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen.

Denmark edged Scotland in group play, but fell short against both Sweden and Switzerland and failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup. In addition, a long-time presence on the team has retired. Cathrine Paaske-Sørensen announced her retirement in November after 121 caps for the national team.

Talented Johanna Rasmussen scored 10 goals in qualifying matches and is probably Denmark’s most accomplished offensive player, but she is not listed on Denmark’s Algarve roster. The forwards that Denmark is bringing to Portugal are relatively inexperienced, with the exception of Julie Rydahl Bukh who is a ten year veteran of the team.

Katrine Pedersen leads the defense and has 170 caps to her credit for Denmark. Heidi Johansen and Tine Cederkvist Viskær share the goalkeeping duties.

The team that Denmark sends to Algarve will include three players that have never capped for them and ten other players that have received their first cap in just the last three years. While the roster includes several veterans, they are looking to build toward the future at Algarve.

Sigurður Ragnar Eyjólfsson
World Rank: #17
World Cup:
Failed to qualify after finishing 2nd to France in UEFA Group 1.

Latest Results:
UEFA WD Qualifying (since July, 2010):
Defeated Estonia 5-0.

Algarve Cup Roster:
Þóra Björg Helgadóttir, Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir.
Defenders: Katrín Jónsdóttir, Ólína Guðbjörg Viðarsdóttir, Sif Atladóttir, Málfriður Erna Sigurðardóttir, Hallbera Guðny Gísladóttir, Thelma Björk Einarsdóttir.
Midfielders: Edda Garðarsdóttir, Dóra María Lárusdóttir, Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, Katrín Ómarsdóttir, Rakel Hönnudóttir, Guðny Björk Óðinsdóttir, Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir, Dagny Brynjarsdóttir, Þórunn Helga Jónsdóttir.
Forwards: Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir, Fanndís Friðriksdóttir, Kristín Yr Bjarnadóttir.

In spite of developing several talented players over the years, Iceland could not solve the French team in qualifying, falling short in their bid for the 2011 World Cup.

Iceland has several good offensive players. Their three top scorers in qualifying were Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir, Katrín Jónsdóttir, and Hólmfriður Magnúsdóttir. Magnúsdottir is not going to be at Algarve, but Vidarsdóttir and Jónsdóttir will be. Viðarsdóttir scored ten goals in just nine matches in UEFA group stage play, a remarkable total.

Jónsdóttir is very experienced, with 102 international caps to her credit. Ólina Viðarsdóttir and Sif Atladóttir are also among Iceland’s best defenders. Þóra Helgadóttir is their number one goalkeeper and she shut out every opponent, with the exception of France, in qualifying.

Iceland has never made it to the World Cup, but they always seem to be knocking on the door. In the 2009 Euros, they drew an extremely tough Group B and lost to Germany, France, and Norway. If they are going to make strides toward future championships, they will need to start beating some of the top teams.

Coach: Thomas Dennerby
World Rank: #4
World Cup: Qualified by winning UEFA Group 8 and then defeating Denmark 4-3 aggregate in a playoff.

Latest Results:
UEFA WC Qualifying Playoff: Defeated Denmark 2-1, Tied Denmark 2-2 (in extra time).
UEFA WC Qualifying (since July, 2010): Defeated Czech Republic 1-0, Defeated Wales 5-1.
Friendlies: Tied United States 1-1, Lost to United States 0-3.

Algarve Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Kristin Hammarström, Hedvig Lindahl, Carola Söberg.
Defenders: Sara Larssen, Lina Nilsson, Charlotte Rohlin, Stina Segerström, Linda Sembrandt, Annica Svensson, Sara Thunebro.
Midfielders & Forwards: Johanna Almgren, Kosovare Asllani, Lisa Dahlkvist, Madelaine Edlund, Nilla Fischer, Linda Forsberg, Antonia Göransson, Marie Hammarström, Jessica Landström, Lotta Schelin, Caroline Seger, Therese Sjögran, Josefine Öqvist.

Sweden is in the World Cup and is certainly a side that could win it. Several of Sweden’s players will be familiar to WPS fans. At least six of the players that Sweden will be sending to Algarve have spent time or will play in WPS and that only scratches the surface of the talent that this team has.

Therese Sjögran, a veteran of 163 international caps, will play for Sky Blue next year. The great veteran will lead the Swedes to Portugal. One player that has not played in WPS, not that many teams haven’t tried to sign her, is Lotta Schelin. Schelin is one the best offensive players in the game today. Jessica Landström, who played for Sky Blue and is now playing in Germany, is another talented offensive player. Kosovare Asllani has a lot of talent, but can be enigmatic at times.

Caroline Seger, now a member of the WNY Flash in the US, is a top notch midfielder in her own right. The Swedes have a very experienced defense with players like Stina Segerström, Charlotte Rohlin, and Sara Thunebro. Hedvig Lindahl is Sweden’s number one keeper.

With so much talent and experience, following Sweden can be a bit maddening. At the Four Nations tournament, they defeated the United States, but then fell to Canada and China. After sweeping through the group stage of UEFA World Cup qualifying, they needed a Rohlin goal in the 73rd minute in the second leg playoff match against Denmark to force overtime. Rohlin then scored in overtime to lift Sweden into the World Cup. If Sweden could get a bit more consistency, they will challenge for the World Cup in 2011.