WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Amid fickle, not-so-June-like weather in the middle of Canada, all four teams in Group D officially got commenced training in the city where they will play their first two group games.
Nigeria remains the mystery team of the group. The Super Falcons hardly ever leave Africa for matches, making them hard to scout. Sweden coach Pia Sundhage said on Friday that she thinks her team has the hardest opening match in the group because of the lack of information on Nigeria. Her players have similar takes.
“It’s a quite young team,” Sweden’s Linda Sembrant said of Nigeria. “A lot of players also played in the U-20 World Cup. It’s a good team, very physical and strong. That’s a big challenge for us to step up and be strong. I think in the big picture, I think we are better team with the football and everything. It’s a different team to play against because they play different defense with more marking.”
Therese Sjogran described the feeling as “calm” despite the lack on information. She notes that the team has seen video on Nigeria.
Australia gears up for USA
Sam Kerr, arguably Australia’s best player, says the team is confident despite its role as underdogs in a loaded group alongside the United States, Sweden and Nigeria.
“We’re obviously confident in our ability,” Kerr said. “Obviously, there are some really strong teams [in the Group D], but we don’t come here to play weak teams. There’s no weak team in the World Cup, so we’re really confident in what we can do. To be honest, we’re just focused on ourselves and if we play our game, we can beat anyone.”
Australia trained in the hot sun on Friday in the southern part of Winnipeg. Claire Polkinghorne sat out of that training session with a hamstring issue. Throughout the part of the session open to media, coach Alen Stajcic preached concentration to his players. “Concentrate every day,” he yelled out to the groups of 6-v-3 in the small-sided games.
Don’t be fooled: Australia has some size. Forward Larissa Crummer, defender Laura Alleway, midfielder Emily Van Egmond and defender Alanna Kennedy in particular stand out on the field.
Saturday’s training sessions brought mild temperatures and rain. Nigeria has been training early — 8 a.m. local time — while Sweden prefers mid-morning. The Americans and Australians have been opting to train in the afternoon. The United States had an off day on Friday.
Has preparation been different for this tournament due to the artificial turf? “Yes,” Sundhage says, also noting that Sweden has had less time together since the domestic season stopped on May 21.
“We’ve had some of the practices — resting some of the players, not having them play and train 90 minutes,” she said. “We make the training a little bit shorter to make sure that we have healthy players and players that are ready to go for the next game.”
Sembrant says she is quite used to artificial turf from playing on it in both Sweden and France.
Winnipeg is a hockey town, so naturally, there’s some hockey talk. Australia’s Hayley Raso learned all about that on Friday when asked about it. Reporter: “How do you feel being in a hockey town? The Stanley Cup started but most of the coverage has been on the Women’s World Cup.
“Sorry?” Raso says, laughing. “I didn’t even know what the Stanley Cup was.”
Linda Sembrant did interviews in Swedish and English. Then she gave French a go, but after a minute of trying, that was that. She had a good laugh about it. Sembrant plays for Montpellier in France.
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