PARIS (AP) — Now the Womens World Cup gets down to business.
After the gala opening match in Paris on Friday night which saw host France emerge victorious, the group stage of soccers most prestigious tournament goes into full swing with three matches on Saturday.
Two-time World Cup champion Germany, ranked No. 2 in the world, opens its tournament on Saturday in Rennes with a match against China. Germany is riding a 12-game winning streak.
A traditional power in womens soccer, Germany has appeared in every World Cup competition. The winning team in 2007 did not concede a goal during the competition.
Its a tough Group B opener for China, which is ranked No. 16. The Steel Roses, as the team is known, have never won a World Cup, but they were runners-up in 1999 when the United States famously won on penalties after a scoreless draw at the Rose Bowl.
“It doesnt matter how strong the opponent is — we need to try our best, and be ourselves.” Steel Roses captain Wu Haiyan said.
The two teams have met 30 total times, with Germany holding a 16-8-6 advantage.
Twenty-four teams are participating in the monthlong tournament, with the championship game set for July 7 in Lyon.
NORWAY BEGINS: Norway, the 1995 World Cup winner, opens the tournament on Saturday night against Nigeria in Group A. France opened the group stage on Friday night with a 4-0 victory over South Korea in the overall tournament opener.
Norway is embarking on the World Cup without its best player, Ada Hegerberg. The 2018 FIFA Ballon dOr winner has stepped down from the national team because of what she says are differences in the way the federation treats the mens and womens teams. She still plays club football for Lyon.
Norway is one of just four countries to have won a World Cup, along with Japan, Germany and the United States.
Nigeria, meanwhile, has been to every World Cup, and made it to the quarterfinals in 1999, but was defeated by Brazil.
COMPARISONS TO THE MEN: France cannot get past the comparisons to their mens national team, but for good reason. The French mens team won the World Cup in Russia last year, and if the women can pull out a victory on home soil, it will be the first time that a nation has simultaneously both held World Cup titles.