FIFA Women’s World Cup Group C preview: Japan have a tough first test

BC Place Stadium in Vancouver is set to host the match between Cameroon and Ecuador in Group C action of the FIFA Women's World Cup. Source: Getty.
BC Place Stadium in Vancouver is set to host the match between Cameroon and Ecuador in Group C action of the FIFA Women's World Cup. Source: Getty. /

With Group C action in the FIFA Women’s World Cup set to get underway, Joe Soriano previews the upcoming action…

Japan’s 36-year-old midfielder Homare Sawa, who is known as the best player in her country’s history, is at her sixth World Cup, and she hoisted the trophy in 2011 as the captain of a side that is once again a favorite to win it all this time around. Sawa is two caps away from 200 appearances with the national team and is looking to add to her tally of 83 goals.

Standing in Japan’s way in the first game of their 2015 Women’s World Cup is Switzerland, who are seen as a dark-horse in the group. There’s just about no chance that Japan is knocked out, as they are the clear favorites in the group. However, it would also be a surprise to see this strong Swiss side bounce out before the knockout stages, especially since they boast one of female football’s best attackers.

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Ramona Bachmann plays with the most recognizable figure in women’s football internationally in Brazil’s five-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner Marta, but Bachmann herself as emerged as a star for both club (FC Rosengard) and country. The 24-year-old has 33 goals in 61 caps for Switzerland, and she and fellow forward Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, who plays her club football at FFC Frankfurt, are Switzerland’s best hopes at spearheading a first-game upset in Group C over Japan.

Swiss Superstar: Ramon
Swiss Superstar: Ramona Bachmann /

While tomorrow’s game between Japan and Switzerland will feature some of the biggest stars in the sport, the earlier game at 16:00 between Ecuador and Cameroon in BC Place in Vancouver (Japan and Switzerland kick off at 19:00) will feature two teams that seem to be virtual unknowns.

Ecuador look destined to finish last in the group after barely qualifying for the World Cup, as Vanessa Arauz’s squad had to defeat Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff 1-0 after scoring a late goal in the second. It was a dramatic victory for obvious reasons, and the meaning of that win was magnified infinitely by the fact that this is the first time Ecuador has qualified for a World Cup.

But they aren’t just here to take in the big stage and gain some World Cup experience; we’ll see if they can surprise some of us by starting off on the right foot against a Cameroon team that just might be one of the biggest darkhorse teams of this year’s tournament. But like Ecuador, this the first time they have qualified for a World Cup, though they did come in third and second, respectively, in the Africa Woman’s Championship.

Cameroon football stars Francine Zouga and Gabrielle Onguene.
Cameroon football stars Francine Zouga and Gabrielle Onguene. /

What makes Cameroon such an appealing darkhorse team is the presence of forward Madeleine Ngono Mani, who as received international plaudits for her work in the French league. Another player to watch for is Christine Manie, who scored the winner in extra time against the Ivory Coast to enable Cameroon to qualify for the World Cup.

Tomorrow’s game between Cameroon and Ecuador might be even more interesting than the star-studded battle between Switzerland and Japan, as we’ll get to see two teams making their World Cup debuts and we’ll get a better idea of what to expect from these two relatively unknown sides.

Next: Group A Preview