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Cyprus Cup preview.

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Credit:Papaya photos
With the 2015 FIFA Women’s world cup just a few months away this year’s Cyprus cup has extra significance as sides look to fine tune their squads ahead of the tournament. The Cyprus Cup may lack the glamour sides that the Algarve Cup contains but there will still be a very high level of technical ability on show with every game being competitive.
Group A
Canada who have won the Cyprus cup a record 3 times and have appeared in a further 3 finals, are the clear favourites to win group A. Although they were outplayed twice by Japan and once by Germany last autumn, the side looks to be finding some form after winning the 4 nations cup in China in January and gaining a draw and a victory in matches against Sweden in November. Canada’s improvement is in part down to Christine Sinclair being back amongst the goals. Elsewhere look for the likes of Sophie Schmidt and Erin McLeod to shine. Scotland will be looking to build on their solid showing in world cup qualifying and could push the Canadians close. They have had one game this year so far that being a 4-0 win in Northern Ireland. Italy, like Scotland, lost to Holland in the playoffs for the world cup and so will be out to prove a point. On their day Italy can be a match for anybody but discipline has often been a problem for them. Last year they lost 3-1 to Canada in the Cyprus Cup in a bad tempered game so it will be interesting to see if they have progressed. South Korea, who will be at the world cup make up the group and although they are technically very good, they may struggle to cope with the physicality of the other 3 sides.
Group B.
Of the three groups Group B is by far the hardest on paper with three sides having qualified for the World Cup and all 3 in the top 11 of the FIFA rankings. Australia have already played two games this year and it looks like new coach Alen Stajcic has hit the ground running as the Matildas have beaten both North Korea and New Zealand this year. Record goal scorer Kate Gill is back in the squad and with players such as Sam Kerr and Lisa De Vanna, Australia could be a real threat in the Cyprus Cup. Having qualified for the World Cup with ease and thrashed Sweden 4-0, England have had a bit of a reality check in their past couple of games being totally outplayed by Germany and, although it was close, losing 1-0 to the USA in a game they rarely threaten to score in. England will expect to get back on track in Cyprus and it is well within their ability to win the Cyprus cup for a second time in 3 years. Their group game against Australia could be the best game of the event given both sides natural instinct is to attack. The Netherlands should also not be discounted from topping the group as they have dramatically improved over recent months and thrashed Thailand 7-0 recently. Finland lost all 3 games in the group stage last year and given the quality of their opponents in group B a repeat of that looks likely.
Group C
Mexico are the only nation in the group to qualify for the World Cup and on paper look to have the strongest side. However Mexico are in poor form at the moment and have had very little experience of playing against the leading European nations which could be a problem as they face both France and England at the world cup, and although they face both Belgium and the Czech Republic in Cyprus, neither will be a great yard stick for what they will face in Canada. Look for Washington Spirit striker Veronica Perez to cause sides lots of problems and be the team’s leader on the field. South Africa will be a tougher nut to crack. They were desperately unlucky not to qualify themselves for the World Cup and with Dutch coach Vera Pauw staying on to coach the side there is a feeling that woman’s football in South Africa has never been in a better place.