February 21, 2011

Cyprus Cup - Group B Preview

Group B at the 2011 Cyprus Cup features two World Cup bound teams, with all four teams being in the world's top 26.

The French team has to be considered the class of this group heading in. They are ranked eighth in the world and have a legitimate chance to bring home the cup this summer. They are also the highest ranked team in this tournament.

Here is a look at Group B:

Coach: Bruno Bini
World Rank: #8
World Cup: Qualified by sweeping through UEFA Group 1 and then defeating Italy 3-2 in aggregate.

Latest Results:
Friendlies: Defeated Poland 5-0.
UEFA WC Playoff Round: Tied Italy 0-0, Defeated Italy 3-2.
UEFA WC Qualifiers (since July, 2010): Defeated Serbia 7-0, Defeated Iceland 1-0.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Sarah Bouhaddi, Céline Deville, Bérangère Sapowicz.
Defenders: Sonia Bompastor, Laure Boulleau, Laura Georges, Laure Lepailleur, Ophélie Meilleroux, Wendie Renard, Sabrina Viguier.
Midfielders: Camille Abily, Elise Bussaglia, Amandine Henry, Louisa Nécib, Caroline Pizzala, Sandrine Soubeyrand.
Forwards: Marie-Laure Delie, Eugénie Le Sommer, Gaëtane Thiney, Elodie Thomis.

The French team has a nice mixture of experienced players, young veterans, and new talent on their team. Their two all-time cap leaders are Sandrine Soubeyrand and Sonia Bompastor. Young veterans, who make up the bulk of the roster, include WPS veteran Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Gaëtane Thiney, Elise Bussaglia and Elodie Thomis. Emerging young stars include Amandine Henry, Eugénie Le Sommer, and Marie-Laure Delie, who has already scored ten goals while playing in just a handful of matches.

Bérangère Sapowicz guided the team through World Cup qualifying in goal. This tournament may be a chance for former number one keeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, to re-establish herself in the goalkeeping mix, after an injury sidelined her for much of the last year.

The French gave up no goals in their ten group qualifying matches, before surrendering two to the Italians in one of their playoff matches. Their defense appears to be sound and if their young attacking players can continue to score, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Coach: Roger Reijner
World Rank: #15
World Cup: Did not qualify after finishing second to Norway in UEFA Group 2.

Latest Results:
Friendlies: Tied England 2-2, Lost to Norway 4-0.
Torneia Internacional Cidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil): Lost to Canada 5-0, Lost to Brazil, Defeated Mexico 3-1, Defeated Mexico 2-1.
UEFA World Cup Qualifiers (since July): Defeated Belarus 4-0.

Preliminary Training Roster:
Goalkeepers: Angela Christ, Loes Geurts, Sari vanVeenendaal.
Defenders: Cynthia Beekhuis, Mandy van de Berg, Dyanne Bito, Marije Brummel, Kika van Es, Petra Hogewoning, Daphne Koster, Manoe Meulen, Leonne Stentler.
Midfielders: Danielle van de Donk, Annemieke Kiesel-Griffioen, Marlous Pieéte, Chantal de Ridder, Renee Slegers, Sherida Spitse, Kirsten van de Den.
Forwards: Anouk Dekker, Claudia van den Heiligenberg, Ellen Jansen, Manon Melis, Tessa Oudejans, Shanice van de Sanden, Sylvia Smit.

The Dutch have had some fairly inconsistent results as of late. They defeated World Cup qualifier Mexico twice and came within an eyelash of tying Brazil in Sao Paulo. On the other hand, they suffered crushing defeats to Norway (4-0 at La Manga) and Canada (5-0 at Sao Paulo). To be fair, they were certainly missing some players for the match against Canada, but it's still not a good result.

After reaching the semifinals of the 2009 Euros, missing the World Cup had to be a disappointment. The Cyprus Cup gives Holland an opportunity to meet two of their European rivals, France and Switzerland, as well as World Cup qualifier New Zealand. New Dutch coach Roger Reijner should see this tournament as a nice test of the team's progress.

Loes Geurts, who just turned 25, is already a seasoned veteran in the nets. Geurts actually played a year of college soccer in the US at Western Illinois, before returning to Holland to compete on the club level.

WPS fans will recognize Sky Blue defender Daphne Koster. SC Heerenveen striker Sylvia Smit scored eight goals in the eight UEFA qualifying matches to lead all Dutch scorers. Another young forward, Manon Melis, scored five goals in qualifying.

New Zealand
Coach: John Herdman
World Rank: #23
World Cup: Qualified by easily winning OFC qualifying outscoring their opponents by 50-0.

Latest Results:
Peace Cup (Korea): Tied England 0-0, Tied Korea Republic 0-0.
OFC WC Qualifiers: Defeated Vanuatu 14-0, Defeated Cook Islands 10-0, Defeated Tahiti 7-0, Defeated Solomon Islands 8-0, Defeated Papua New Guinea 11-0.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Jenny Bindon, Aroon Clansey.
Defenders: Abby Erceg, Anna Green, Kristy Hill, Ria Percival, Ali Riley, Rebecca Smith.
Midfielders: Terri-Amber Carlson, Betsy Hassett, Katie Hoyle, Annalie Longo, Hayley Moorwood, Hannah Wall, Kirsty Yallop.
Forwards: Olivia Chance, Sarah Gregorius, Amber Hearn, Emma Kete, Rosie White, Hannah Wilkinson.

The Football Ferns certainly had a cakewalk through OFC qualifying. But they are also a team that shouldn't be taken lightly by the world powers in soccer, because they are improving. Ties against England and Korea in the Peace Cup and victories early last year over Italy and Scotland point to that.

New Zealand has a veteran goalkeeper in Jenny Bindon, who has been their number one for several years. Bindon has earned shutouts over several top notch sides over the past couple of years.

The Ferns also have WPS Rookie of the Year, Ali Riley, on their back line. Riley is quickly becoming one of the best outside backs in women's soccer and she has blazing speed that make her a force on the attack. Two other veterans, Hayley Moorwood and Kirsty Yallop play on the club level in Europe.

New Zealand did very well last year in this tournament and look to once again prove they belong on the world's stage. They are an improving side with some talented young players.

Coach: Beatrice Von Siebenthal
World Rank: #26
World Cup: Failed to qualify after winning UEFA Group 6. They lost to England 5-2 aggregate, defeated Denmark 3-1 aggregate, and then fell to Italy 5-2 aggregate.

Latest Results:
UEFA WC Playoff Rounds: Lost to England 3-2, Lost to England 2-0, Defeated Denmark 3-1, Tied Denmark 0-0. Lost to Italy 1-0, Lost to Italy 4-2.
UEFA WC Qualifying (since July, 2010): Defeated Kazakhstan 8-0.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Marisa Brunner, Jennifer Oehrli.
Defenders: Caroline Abbé, Sandra Betschart, Rachel Count, Marina Keller, Nicole Remund.
Midfielders & Forwards: Ramona Bachmann, Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, Lara Dickenmann, Lara Keller, Selina Kuster, Sandy Maendly, Jehona Mehmeti, Isabelle Meyer, Martina Moser, Vanessa Pitter, Selina Zumbühl.
On Call: Gaëlle Thalmann, Caroline Müller, Barbara Beutler, Marie-Andrea Egli, Danique Stein.

The Swiss seem to be always on the verge of moving up. They were able to win their group stage, but surrendered five goals in aggregate to both England and Italy, and fell short of qualifying for the World Cup. But they are a very young team that should grow in the coming years.

Their two most well known players to American soccer fans are probably Lara Dickenmann who plays for Olympique Lyonnais and Ramona Bachmann who spent the 2010 WPS season with Atlanta. Dickenmann has been a member of the team for nearly 10 years and is the squad's most experienced player, save for goalkeeper Marisa Brunner.

Bachmann was a bit of an enigma last season with Atlanta, where she was unable to get untracked after success at Umeå in the Damallsvenskan. Young Ana Maria Crnogorcevic was Switzerland's leading scorer in qualifying matches. And like Bachmann, Crnogorcevic is just 20 years old.

Other young veterans on the Swiss team include Caroline Abbé, Rachel Count, Sandy Maendly, Isabelle Meyer, and Martina Moser, all of which have yet to reach their 25th birthday.

Cyprus Cup Group B Schedule:
Wednesday, March 2
France vs. Switzerland (GSP/Nicosia)
New Zealand vs. Holland (GSP/Nicosia)
Friday, March 4
France vs. Holland (Ammochostos/Larnaca)
Switzerland vs. New Zealand (GSZ/Larnaca)
Monday, March 7
Holland vs. Switzerland (Ammochostos/Larnaca)
New Zealand vs. France (GSP/Nicosia)
Wednesday, March 9
Finals Day.