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US draws NKorea (again), Colombia and Sweden
The top-ranked Americans were the last team to qualify for the 16-nation tournament, beating Italy in a home-and-home playoff on Saturday after being stunned by Mexico in the semifinals of regional qualifying. Still, the U.S. is a top seed, as are two-time defending champion Germany, Japan and Brazil. The tournament will be played June 26 to July 17 at nine sites in Germany.
The U.S. opens June 28 against North Korea, the fourth straight time these nations will meet in the group stage. The Americans beat the North Koreans 3-0 in 1999 and 2003, but tied 2-2 in 2007. The U.S. will face World Cup newcomer Colombia on July 2 and finish group play four days later against Sweden, U.S. coach Pia Sundhage’s old team.
The Americans won the World Cup twice in 1991 and 1999, and they have finished no worse than third.
Germany begins the tournament June 26 in Berlin against Canada, the champion of North and Central America and the Caribbean. It also plays African champion Nigeria and France in what could be the toughest of the four groups. Japan will face New Zealand, Mexico and England, while 2007 runner-up Brazil drew Australia, former champion Norway and Equatorial Guinea.
The Americans cannot play Germany until at least the semifinals. The Germans beat the U.S. 3-0 in the 2003 semis but the Americans are 5-0-2 against the world’s No. 2 team since then, including a 3-2 victory in the Algarve Cup final this year.
By Emily Miller
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