By Steven Goff
How qualified: Defeated Ukraine in European playoff.
Previous World Cups: Third in '91, second in '95.
Top Players: MF Martina Voss, GK Silke Rottenberg, D Doris Fitschen, F Birgit Prinz, MF Bettina Wiegmann. Roster
Of Note: Central D Steffi Jones is the daughter of an American serviceman who returned to the United States.
Outlook: After coming close twice, Germans believe they are strong threat to win championship. Veteran squad has plenty of big-game experience and won't be phased easily. Known for short-passing, possession game and composed attack. Has victory and tie in recent meetings with U.S.
How qualified: Won South American championship.
Previous World Cups: Ninth in '91 and '95.
Top Players: MF Sissi, F Pretinha, F Katia, D Elane, D Nene. Roster
Of Note: Most of players are from Sao Paulo, with most notable exception being high-scoring Pretinha, who's from Rio de Janeiro. In six qualifying games, Brazil outscored opponents 66-3.
Outlook: Like men's squad, Brazilian women have brought unique and attractive style to the game. They are best team not to be among four top seeds and will challenge Germany for group title. First-or second-place finish means quarterfinal at Cooke Stadium. Progress showed in '96 Olympics, where Brazil finished fourth.
How qualified: Defeated Argentina in special two-game playoff.
Previous World Cups: First appearance.
Top Players: F Maribel Dominguez, MF Laurie Hill, MF Andrea Rodebaugh, F Monica Gerardo, GK Linnea Quinones. Roster
Of Note: Cuellar, captain of Mexico's 1978 World Cup team, is the men's coach at Cal State-Los Angeles.
Outlook: Team imported a dozen players with U.S. ties to build a respectable program, including playmaker Hill, who's daughter of Mexican-born mother and former star at UC Santa Barbara. Mexicans aren't given much chance of advancing in rough group, but could cause problems for heavily favored opponents.
How qualified: Won European Group 2 with 5-0-1 record.
Previous World Cups: Sixth in '91.
Top Players: MF Antonella Carta, D Daniela Tavalazzi, D Damiana Deiana, GK Giorgia Brenzan, F Silvia Fiorini. Roster
Of Note: Finished second to Germany in 1997 European Championship after upsetting Norway in semifinals.
Outlook: Another dangerous European team, but chances of advancing to quarterfinals are slim because it's stuck in tournament's toughest group. Like men's team, women will play traditional 4-4-2 formation and rely on defense to spark attack.
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