Some of the best evidence of how much the gap between the the varying tiers of teams in the world can be found in the rise in quality of the Cyprus Cup, an important but very much secondary annual tournament to the Algarve Cup.
Defending champions France have upgraded to a loaded Algarve Cup, meaning there will be a new champion in Cyprus next week.
Group A at the Cyprus Cup features 2015 FIFA World Cup host Canada alongside Scotland and Italy, the two best European teams to miss out on the World Cup after losing in the four playoff — Italy in the final and Scotland in the semifinal. Joining them is Korea Republic.
Group B looks to be the strongest at the Cyprus Cup, with three 2015 World Cup participants: Australia, England and the Netherlands. Finland completes that group, a group that should help foreshadow World Cup fates for each of the qualified teams.
Both of those groups feature teams on the upswing that could compete with most other sides in the world. It is Group C at the Cyprus Cup that is weaker, as it historically always has been. Mexico is the only 2015 World Cup team in the group, joined by Belgium, Czech Repulic and South Africa, who joined the field only last month after New Zealand decided that a pair of friendlies against Spain would better suit them than the Cyprus Cup. By the looks of the relatively weak group, the Football Ferns may have chose well — they tied Spain, 2-2 on Tuesday — but Group C will provide intrigue for Mexico, a team that has gone backward over the past three years.
Just like the Algarve Cup, the Cyprus Cup allows the six World Cup-bound teams to replicate the short rest and various demands that the tournament will bring in June and July.
“You’re now going from game-to-game-to-game. You have all your recovery strategies, mental physical,” Canada coach John Herdman said on Tuesday. “You have to be slick with your scouting process. … This process is where we put more pressure on the team and we put more pressure on ourselves to deliver that quality.”
GROUP A: Scotland, Canada, Italy, Korea Republic
GROUP B: Australia, England, Finland Netherlands
GROUP C: Belgium Czech Republic, Mexico, South Africa
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