World Cup Group E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Korea Republic, Spain
2015 Women’s World Cup Group E Schedule:
Playing without superstar Marta, Brazil stumbled a little in qualifying but ultimately won the South American tournament. A fast passing, highly technical team, Brazil plays with the flair its men have long been known for. A 5-time World Player of the Year, Marta is still one of the greatest players in the game, and at 29 years old is in the prime of her career heading to Canada. She has not won the World Cup or the Olympic gold medal for Brazil, (finishing second at the 2007 World Cup and the 2004 and 2008 Olympics) and that will drive her this summer. While Marta gets the spotlight, Brazil is not a one-woman team: veteran striker Cristiane remains one of the games best pure goal scorers, while Formiga and Rosana provide veteran leadership in midfield. New wingers Andressina and Andressa Alves provide pace and trickery on the flanks. Like his recent predecessors head coach Vadão, who took over the national team reigns in 2014, will try to land the game’s biggest prize by working to tighten up the defense so that the magnificent work of Marta and company at the other end of the field isn’t wasted.
Costa Rica makes its World Cup debut in Canada after finishing surprise runners-up at the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship in October. While well organized at the back, head coach Garabet Avedissian has built his team around veteran midfield playmaker Shirley Cruz and a group of young, speedy forwards that include Carolina Venegas, Penn State’s Raquel Rodriguez and winger Wendy Acosta. Venegas scored the goal in the opening game 1-0 upset of Mexico in qualifying, and went on to lead the Las Ticas with 4 goals in the tournament. A 6-0 loss to the U.S. in the CONCACAF championship game shouldn’t distract from the team’s accomplishment. At that point Costa Rica had already qualified for Canada after beating Trinidad & Tobago in the semifinals on penalty kicks.
Korea Republic is a team slowly gaining ground in women’s soccer, having finished fourth of the five qualifying nations from Asia. They will play in their second World Cup in Canada and first since 2003. Head coach Yoon Deok-yeo is quick to point out that the attacking and physical aspect of his team’s game will need marked improvement in time for Canada. Korea typically plays a 4-4-2 and relies almost solely on two players for goals: Ji So-yun who plays for Chelsea in England and Park Eun Sun, the top goal scorer at the Asian Cup with six. Together they accounted for six goals in the opening two matches to secure an early World Cup berth before finishing the tournament with back-to-back losses. Korea is coming off a third-place finish as hosts of the Asian Games, a tournament that saw them lose to North Korea in the semifinals.
Spain makes its World Cup debut in Canada. Led by Vero Boquete, one of the world’s best playmakers, Spain is a team that could spring a surprise or two this summer. Along with Vero — who played for the Portland Thorns in 2014, Spain also boasts a prolific attack that includes veterans such as Natalia Pablos, Adriana Martin and Jenni Hermoso. If head coach Ignacio Quereda can get his defense organized then his team’s attacking flair can take Spain a long way. Undefeated in qualifying, Spain won nine of 10 games, scoring 42 goals and conceding just two.