February 20, 2011

Cyprus Cup - Group A Preview

The Cyprus Cup is set to kick off on March 2 and for many teams, it will be their last major competition before the 2011 World Cup. This year, the Cyprus Cup has a field of 12 teams, five of which will be among those competing in Germany come June.

The twelve teams have been divided into three groups:
Group A: Canada, England, Italy, Scotland
Group B: France, Holland, New Zealand, Switzerland
Group C: Mexico, Northern Ireland, Russia, South Korea

Eleven of the 12 teams are ranked in FIFA's top 26 teams, with only Northern Ireland being lower at #64.

The competition will have group stage matches on March 2nd, 4th, and 7th, before a final round is played on March 9th.

Here is a preview of Group A, with Groups B and C to follow shortly:

Coach: Carolina Morace
World Rank: #9
World Cup: Qualified by winning the CONCACAF region.

Latest Results:
Four Nations Tournament (China): Defeated China 3-2, Lost to United States 1-2, Defeated Sweden 1-0.
Torneia Internacional Cidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil): Defeated Holland 5-0, Defeated Mexico 1-0, Tied Brazil 0-0, Tied Brazil 2-2
CONCACAF WC Qualifiers: Defeated Trinidad & Tobago 1-0, Defeated Guyana 8-0, Defeated Mexico 3-0, Defeated Costa Rica 4-0, Defeated Mexico 1-0.

Preliminary Training Roster:
Goalkeepers: Stephanie Labbé, Karina LeBlanc, Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Candace Chapman, Shannon Woeller, Emily Zurrer, Rhian Wilkinson, Melanie Booth, Marie-Eve Nault, Robyn Gale, Brittany Timko.
Midfielders: Carmelina Moscato, Desiree Scott, Chelsea Stewart, Jonelle Filigno, Kaylyn Kyle, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt.
Forwards: Josée Bélanger, Chelsea Buckland, Christina Julien, Brooke McCalla, Jodi-Ann Robinson, Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi.

The Canadians have been playing very good soccer over the past few months, going 10-1-2 over their last 13 matches, winning two major competitions and qualifying for the World Cup along the way.

Unfortunately, most of the talk surrounding the Canadian team lately concerns off-the-field issues. Coach Carolina Morace announced that she is resigning after the World Cup, citing differences with the Canadian Soccer Association. In response, her team threatened to strike because of what they perceive as the unfairness that CSA had dealt with Morace and because of other issues including compensation. All of this has put a cloud over a Canadian program that may be at its highest level in quite a few years.

As far as soccer goes, Canada hopes to continue the success they have had the past six months. They are led by their all-time leading scorer, Christine Sinclair, who has scored 115 goals in 151 international matches. She is often paired with veteran power forward Melissa "Tanc" Tancredi. They also have young offensive talent in MF Jonelle Filigno, F Josée Belanger, and Christina Julien.

The Canadians can also boast one of the deepest squads in their history. Other players include WPS goalkeepers Karina LeBlanc and Erin McLeod, WNY Flash defender Candace Chapman, Portland Pilot college star Sophie Schmidt, and Lillestrøm SK veterans Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson.

Coach: Hope Powell
World Rank: #10
World Cup: Qualified by winning UEFA Group 5 and then defeating Switzerland 5-2 aggregate in two-game playoff.

Latest Results:
Peace Cup: Tied South Korea 0-0, Tied New Zealand 0-0.
UEFA Playoff Round: Defeated Switzerland 2-0, Defeated Switzerland 3-2.
UEFA WC Qualifiers (since July, 2010): Defeated Turkey 3-0, Defeated Austria 4-0.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley, Siobhan Chamberlain.
Defenders: Sophie Bradley, Lindsay Johnson, Alex Scott, Casey Stoney, Dunia Susi, Rachel Unitt, Faye White.
Midfielders: Anita Asante, Laura Bassett, Jess Clarke, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Sue Smith, Fara Williams, Rachel Yankey.
Forwards: Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith, Ellen White.

Hope Powell and the English National Team are probably looking forward to some tough competition at this tournament. They have only played one other World Cup qualified team over the past year, that being New Zealand at the Peace Cup. Not that they haven't faced some tough sides in the interim, having played matches against Switzerland, South Korea, and Spain. England has not lost a match since their 1-0 loss at the hands of Canada in last year's Cyprus Cup.

England has a strong, veteran team. Any conversation about the Lionesses must start with perennial Player of the Year candidate Kelly Smith. The 15-year national team veteran has scored 42 international goals and her next cap will be her 100th. Smith is a smart, strong player who is a threat to score any time she takes the field.

If you like speed, young forward Eniola Aluko can give you plenty. With a couple of WPS seasons and a strong 2009 Euro Tournament under her belt, she is an emerging star.

Most of the English team is made up of veterans including Faye White, Casey Stoney, Alex Scott, and Fara Williams. Karen Bardsley has been seeing more and more time as the English goalkeeper and is competing for the number one job.

Coach: Pietro Ghedin
World Rank: #11
World Cup: Just missed qualifying after winning UEFA Group 7 and losing by 3-2 aggregate to France. Then defeated Ukraine and Switzerland, before falling 2-0 aggregate to the USA in playoff.

Latest Results:
World Cup Qualifying Playoff: Lost to the United States 1-0, Lost to the United States 1-0.
World Cup UEFA Playoffs: Defeated Switzerland 1-0, Defeated Switzerland 4-2, Defeated Ukraine 3-0, Tied Ukraine 0-0, Tied France 0-0, Lost to France 3-2.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Chiara Marchitelli, Anna Maria Picarelli, Katia Schroffenegger.
Defenders: Elisa Bartoli, Alia Guagni, Elisabetta Tona, Viviana Schiavi, Roberta D'Adda, Sara Gama, Laura Neboli.
Midfielders: Alessia Tuttino, Elisa Camporese, Giulia Domenichetti, Pamela Conti, Alice Parisi, Carolina Pini.
Forwards: Patrizia Panico, Melania Gabbiadini, Ilario Mauro, Evelyn Vicchiarello, Daniela Sabatino.

One thing that must be said about this Italian side is that they have been well-tested. They took the longest route of any team to World Cup qualifying only to fall just short in the end after two 1-0 losses to the United States.

After a grueling fall schedule where every match had so much on the line, this year's Cyprus Cup must almost seem like a holiday to them. The Italian squad has a nice mixture of young players and veterans. They are a very competitive side, with all of their losses over the past year being by just one goal.

Long-time veteran Patrizia Panico, now 36 years old, is nearing 100 career goals. She is the Italian's primary scoring threat. Melania Gabbiadini is back from an injury that sidelined her from the matches against the US. Playmaking midfielder Elisa Camporese is also a player to watch.

The Italians have a sturdy defense that can be very hard to score on. Young Sara Gama is a threat from the outside back position going forward. Short, but scrappy, Anna-Maria Picarelli holds down the goalkeeper's position.

Coach: Anna Signeul
World Rank: #24
World Cup: Failed to qualify, finishing second in UEFA Group 3, just behind Denmark.

Latest Results:
Friendlies: Defeated Wales 4-2, Defeated Poland 2-1.
UEFA WC Qualifiers (Since July, 2010): Tied Denmark 0-0, Defeated Greece 4-1.

Cyprus Cup Roster:
Goalkeepers: Gemma Fay, Shannon Lynn.
Defenders: Jennifer Beattie, Frankie Brown, Rachel Corsie, Ifeoma Dieke, Emma Fernon, Rhonda Jones, Rachael Small.
Midfielders: Hayley Lauder, Kim Little, Joanne Love, Leanne Ross, Megan Sneddon.
Forwards: Diana Barry, Rebecca Dempster, Christie Murray, Suzanne Grant, Jane Ross.

Scotland just missed getting out of their group stage in UEFA World Cup qualifying, falling just a point shy of Denmark. Since the last qualifying matches in August, the team has been fairly inactive, playing just one match, a victory over Wales. They will get thrown into the fire in a tough group stage at the Cyprus Cup.


Scottish star, Julie Fleeting, was not on the roster released to the press for the Cyprus Cup. Fleeting, who just gave birth to her first child, may not be quite ready from a fitness standpoint.


Ifeoma Dieke is probably the player with whom WPS fans are most familiar. The veteran defender has played 32 matches for the Chicago Red Stars and Boston Breakers over the past two seasons. Gemma Fay has over 100 caps in goal for the Scots.


Scotland has several talented young players such as Rachael Small, Kim Little, and Rebecca Dempster, that will give a bright future to the team.


Cyprus Cup-Group A Schedule

Wednesday, March 2

Canada vs. Scotland (Ammochostos/Larnaca)

England vs. Italy (GSZ/Larnaca)

Friday, March 4

England vs. Scotland (GSP/Nicosia)

Italy vs. Canada (GSP/Nicosia)

Monday, March 7

Scotland vs. Italy (GSZ/Larnaca)

Canada vs. England (GSP/Nicosia)

Wednesday, March 9

Finals Day.