February 24, 2011

Cyprus Cup - Group C Preview

While Group C doesn't have any of the world's top 15 teams in it, it should be an interesting group to watch. It features a talented, emerging team in Mexico, a solid veteran team in Russia, a young, exciting side in the Korea Republic, and an improving squad from Northern Ireland.

Leonardo Cuellar
World Rank: #22
World Cup:
Qualified by finishing second in CONCACAF after defeating the United States 2-1 in the semifinal.

Latest Results:
Torneia Internacional Cidade de Sao Paulo:
Lost to Brazil 3-0, Lost to Canada 1-0, Lost to Holland 3-1, Lost to Holland 2-1.
CONCACAF WC Qualifiers: Defeated Guyana 7-2, Defeated Trinidad & Tobago 2-0, Lost to Canada 0-3, Defeated USA 2-1, Lost to Canada 0-1.

Preliminary Roster (final Cyprus Cup roster was not available at press time):
Goalkeepers: Erika Vanegas, Pamela Tajonar, Cecilia Santiago.
Defenders: Kenti Robles, Marlene Sandoval, Rosario Saucedo, Maria Castillo, Leticia Villalpando, Natalie Vinti, Monica Alvarado.
Midfielders: Nayeli Rangel, Monica Vergara, Tania Morales, Evelyn Lopez, Guadalupe Worbis, Liliana Mercado, Teresa Noyola,.
Forwards: Charlyn Corral, Stephany Mayor, Dinora Garza, Maribel Dominguez, Veronica Perez.

The Cyprus Cup will be a major test for the Mexicans leading up to the 2011 World Cup. On one hand, they have a victory over the world’s number one ranked team under their belts and have played some very good teams close, including a pair of 1-0 losses to Canada. On the other hand, their record stands at just 4-11 over the past 15 matches, with the only win of any substance being the 2-1 upset over the United States in CONCACAF qualifying. To be sure, the Mexicans are a young talented team, but will they be ready to take on the world’s best in June?

One player that is essential to their World Cup plans is Maribel Dominguez, Mexico’s leading scorer who plays club soccer in Spain. Dominguez has good speed and uses well-timed runs to get in behind opposing defenses. Other top offensive players include Charlyn Corral, Stephany Mayor, Veronica Perez, and Dinora Garza.

Mexico is led in the midfield by Nayeli Rangel and Guadalupe Worbis. Kenti Robles, who also plays club soccer in Spain, is a top defender. American college star Teresa Noyola, who recently made the decision to play for Mexico, will be vying for a midfield spot on the roster. The goalkeeper battle appears to be between Erika Vanegas and Pam Tajonar, with Vanegas getting the bulk of the minutes over the past year. Monica Ocampo, Natalie Garcia, and Renae Cuellar may not make the trip to Cyprus because of injuries.

Group C will be a solid test for Mexico. With Russia and South Korea being ranked in the top 20, coach Leonardo Cuellar should be able to get some measure of his team’s progress in this tournament.

Northern Ireland
Alfie Wylie
World Rank: #64
World Cup:
Failed to qualify after finishing third in UEFA Group 1 behind France and Iceland.

Latest Results:
UEFA WC Qualifying (Since July, 2010): Defeated Estonia 3-0, Tied Serbia 0-0, Defeated Croatia 3-1.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Emma Higgins, Ciara McCoy.
Defenders: Kelly Bailie, Lyndsay Corry, Ashley Hutton, Julie Nelson.
Midfielders: Nadene Caldwell, Danielle McDowell, Kirsty McGuiness, Nicola McWilliams, Kim Turner, Demi Vance.
Forwards: Rachel Furness, Trudy Harbinson, Simone Magill, Sarah McFadden, Helen McKenna, Alison Smyth.

The lowest ranked team in the tournament at number 64, Northern Ireland sees this tournament as an opportunity for improvement and growth. They are a very young team, looking toward the future. They have shown progress lately. After losing five straight qualifying matches, they finished group play with two wins and two draws, surrendering just one goal over those four matches.

Defensively, they are a tough unit. With the exception of the 10 goals they gave up in the two matches against France, they played sound defense in qualifying matches. The defense is led by team captain Ashley Hutton. Hutton, Kim Turner, and Sarah McFadden all played college soccer at Southern Mississippi here in the States. Emma Higgins is the number one keeper.

Scoring has been the biggest problem for Northern Ireland. Rachel Furness was their biggest scorer in World Cup qualifying matches with four goals. But two talented young players from the U-17 team may be the key to the future for this team. Simone Magill and Kirsty McGuiness appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

Igor Shalimov
World Rank:
World Cup: Failed to qualify after finishing second to Switzerland in UEFA Group 6.

Latest Results:
Friendlies: Lost to Finland 4-5.
UEFA WC Qualifying (since July, 2010): Defeated Kazakhstan 8-0, Tied Republic of Ireland 1-1.

Preliminary Roster (final Cyprus Cup roster was not available at press time):
Elvira Todua, Elena Kochneva.
Defenders: Anna Kozhnikova, Nadezhda Myskiv, Natalia Pertseva, Daria Makarenko, Elena Semenchenko, Elena Suslov, Oksana Shmachkova, Ksenia Tsybutovich.
Midfielders: Elena Fomina, Nadezhda Kharchenko, Elena Morozova, Olga Petrova, Alla Rogova, Tatiana Skotnikova, Ekaterina Sochneva, Svetlana Tsydikova.
Forwards: Anna Cholovyaga, Elena Danilova, Olesya Kurochkina, Elena Terekhova.

The Russians fell two points short of making the UEFA WC Playoff round, after a disappointing 3-0 loss to Switzerland at home last June. They must now look to build toward the 2013 Euro tournament.

Russia’s most talented offensive player is Elena Danilova. Danilova scored five goals in just five qualifying matches. Still just 23 years old, Danilova scored a goal against Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals back in 2003 at age 16. Olesya Kurochkina led all Russian scorers with six goals in qualification.

Tatiana Skotnikova is a top player in the Russian midfield. The long-time veteran gives the Russians a great amount of experience in the midfield. Anna Kozhnikova is a threat to score out of the back line. Goalkeeping duties are held down by two relative youngsters in Elvira Todua and Elena Kochneva.

After just missing the playoff round for World Cup qualification, Russia will be looking to put together a good tournament and possibly win Group C.

South Korea (Korea Republic)
Choi In-Cheul
World Rank: #18
World Cup: Failed to qualify after finishing third in the group stage of the 2010 Asian Cup.

Latest Results:
Asian Games: Defeated Vietnam 6-1, Defeated Jordan 5-0, Defeated China 0-0 on penalty kicks, Lost to Korea DPR 1-3, Defeated China 2-0.
Peace Cup: Tied New Zealand 0-0, Tied England 0-0, Defeated Australia 2-0.

Cypress Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Jun Min-Kyung, Moon So-Ri.
Defenders: Lim Seon-Joo, Jung Young-A, Lee Jin-Hwa, Yu Ji-Eun, Hwang Bo-Ram, Shim Seo-Yeon, Lee Eun-Mi, Kim Hye-Ri.
Midfielders: Kim Na-Rae, Jung Won-Jung, Lee Hyun-Young, Jeon Ga-Eul, Kim Soo-Yun, Kwon Hah-Nul, Lee Sea-Eun, Kwon Eun-Som.
Forwards: Yeo Min-Ji, Ji So-Yun, Park Hee-Young, Yoo Young-A.

After a disappointing finish in the Asian Cup, Korea redeemed themselves in the Peace Cup, managing a win and two ties against three World Cup bound teams. They followed that with a strong third place finish at the Asian Games, losing only to Korea DPR.

Two things about this team…they are improving and they are young….very, very young. Seventeen of the 22 players they are sending to the Cyprus Cup are 22 years old or younger. They have only one player on their roster that is older than 26, that being Yu Ji-Eun. The future looks very bright for this team.

While Park Hee-Young is their leading scorer, Ji So-Yun and Yoo Young-A have been lighting up the scoreboard lately. Ji, who just turned 20, has been quite the sensation. She scored five goals in the Asian Games, including a hat trick against Jordan.

Korea boasts a talented group of young midfielders in Jeon Ga-Eul, Kim Soo-Yun, and Kwon Hah-Nul. They are led on defense by their most experienced player, Yu Ji-Eun, and Lee Eun-Mi, who has 11 goals in just 31 international matches. Goalkeeping duties belong to Jun Min-Kyung. This team should be one of the most exciting teams to watch at the Cyprus Cup.