By Steven Goff
How qualified: Won Asian championship.
Previous World Cups: Fifth in '91, fourth in '95.
Top Players: F Sun Wen, GK Gao Hong, MF Liu Ailing, F Jin Yan, MF-F Liu Ying. Roster
Of Note: China beat United States two out of three times this year, including once at Giants Stadium in April. All three games were 2-1.
Outlook: Nucleus of '95 semifinalist and '96 Olympic runner-up squad has returned to establish Chinese as greatest threat to U.S. team. World-class players at almost every position and confidence against any opponent. If games are decided by goalies, China has edge over most with acrobatic Gao in net.
How qualified: Won Oceania regional championship.
Previous World Cups: 12th in '95.
Top Players: F Julie Murray, MF Lisa Casagrande, MF Sharon Black, MF Cheryl Salisbury, D Anissa Tann-Darby. Roster
Of Note: Brown, born in England, played in Manchester United's youth system before joining clubs in New Zealand and Australia. Played 12 times for Australia's national team.
Outlook: On the rise and hopeful for second-place finish behind China. National sports federation has pumped thousands of dollars into women's program in anticipation of 2000 Olympic Games. Players have been training full-time in Canberra for past year.
How qualified: Finished second in African championships.
Previous World Cups: First appearance.
Top Players: F Vivan Mensah, MF-D Alberta Sackey, F Nana Amma Gyamfuah, GK Memunatu Sulemana. Roster
Of Note: Sackey's athletic career started in volleyball, in part because there wasn't an organized soccer league in Ghana.
Outlook: Ghana doesn't appear to have much chance of getting past first round. However, strong showing in qualifying rounds and several stylish players have lifted Ghana into upper echelon of African soccer, temporarily stealing attention from underachieving men's team.
How qualified: Won European Group 1 with 6-0 record.
Previous World Cups: Third in '91, Fifth in '95.
Top Players: GK Ulrika Karlsson, F Victoria Svensson, MF Hanna Ljungberg, MF Malin Andersson, MF Kristin Bengtsson. Roster
Of Note: Sweden is among pioneers in women's soccer, staging league championship in 1972 and playing first international game a year later. (U.S.'s first game wasn't until '85).
Outlook: Was disappointing as host of '95 Cup, losing to China on penalty kicks in quarterfinals after rocky first round. Several newcomers have been injected into lineup, including 20-year-old Ljungberg and 22-year-old Svensson. Expected to advance, but could lose out to Australia.
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