Group A

United States

Coach: Tony DiCicco.

How qualified: Host country gets automatic berth.

Previous World Cups: First in 1991, third in '95.

Top players: F Mia Hamm, MF Michelle Akers, MF Kristine Lilly, F Tiffeny Milbrett, D Joy Fawcett.

Of note: 10-1-1 all-time in World Cup play (40 goals for, 10 allowed) and 9-0 in qualifying matches, outscoring opponents 85-1.

Outlook: Expected to win title, but may be vulnerable in elimination rounds against the likes of Germany, Brazil, China and Norway. Large home crowds will provide an emotional boost. Hamm and Milbrett need to score consistently.

North Korea.

Coach: Myong Tong Chan.

How qualified: Finished second in Asia.

Previous World Cups: First appearance.

Top players: F Kim Kum Sil, D Kim Sun Hui, MF Ri Kyong Ae, F Kim Hye Ran, MF Ri Hyang Ok.

Of note: Upset Japan, 1-0, in Asian semifinals to earn one of three Asian berths before losing to China, 2-0, in final.

Outlook: Unknown Koreans could pose problems for favored first-round opponents after earning praise for "fast and skillful performance" at Asian qualifying tournament. Also known for physical play to disrupt opposition's rhythm.

Nigeria.

Coach: Ismaila Mabo.

How qualified: Won African championship.

Previous World Cups: 10th in 1991, 11th in '95.

Top players: F "Marvelous" Mercy Akide, MF Florence Omagbemi, GK Ann Agumanu-Chiejinei, D Prisca Emeafu, MF Nkiru Okosieme.

Of note: Omagbemi is nicknamed "Dunga" after the hard-nosed Brazilian men's midfield leader.

Outlook: Must beat Denmark if Falcons hope to advance for first time. Dominated African opponents and showed upset potential with 4-3 victory over China in exhibition this week. MF Patience Avre had three goals.

Denmark.

Coach: Jorge Hvidemose.

How qualified: Won European Group 4 with 6-0 record.

Previous World Cups: Seventh in '91, sixth in '95.

Top players: F Gitte Krogh, F Lene Jensen, D Lene Terp, GK Dorthe Larsen, MF Christina Petersen.

Of note: Terp played at Lynn University (Fla.) and teammate Mikka Hansen helped Santa Clara advance to the NCAA final four in 1996.

Outlook: Defensive-minded Danes have been traditionally in the second tier of women's soccer -- an above-average team capable of an upset. But the team did not play well in the build-up to this tournament and may struggle to advance.

Group B

Germany.

Coach: Tina Theune-Meyer.

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.

Of note: D Steffi Jones is 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 fazed easily. Known for short-passing, possession game and composed attack. Has victory and tie in recent meetings with United States.

Brazil.

Coach: Wilson Rica.

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.

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: Brazilian women have brought a unique and attractive style to the game. They are best team not to be a top seed and will challenge Germany for group title. First- or second-place finish means quarterfinal at Cooke Stadium. Finished fourth in '96 Olympics.

Mexico.

Coach: Leonardo Cuellar.

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.

Of note: Cuellar, captain of Mexico's 1978 Cup team, is 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.

Italy.

Coach: Carlo Facchin.

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.

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.

Group C

Norway.

Coach: Per-Mathias Hogmo.

How qualified: Won European Group 3 with 4-1-1 record.

Previous World Cups: Second in '91, won in '95.

Top players: D Linda Medalen, MF Hege Riise, F Marianne Pettersen, F Ann Kristin Aarones, GK Bente Nordby.

Of note: Medalen orchestrates the defense after serving as one of Norway's top scoring threats at striker for many years.

Outlook: Defending champion has a good shot to repeat. First-round opponents probably won't be much of an obstacle and experience and talent should get Norwegians to third consecutive final. Aarones, who beat U.S. in '95 semis with header, is one of best in front of goal.

Japan.

Coach: Satoshi Miyauchi.

How qualified: Finished third in Asian tournament.

Previous World Cups: 12th in '91, eighth in '95.

Top players: MF Homare Sawa, F Nami Otake, F Tamaki Uchiyama, GK Nozomi Yamago.

Of note: Japan outscored opponents 33-1 in qualifying tournament, but one goal allowed came in 1-0 semifinal loss to North Korea.

Outlook: Japan advanced to quarterfinals in '95 (and was eliminated by U.S., 4-0), but squad this year doesn't appear as talented. Sawa is one of best in world, and she is only 20. She was youngest player at '95 tournament in Sweden and scored 12 goals in five qualifiers last year, including seven against Guam.

Canada.

Coach: Neil Turnbull.

How qualified: Won CONCACAF championship.

Previous World Cups: Tenth in '95.

Top players: F Charmaine Hooper, F Silvana Burtini, F Shannon Rosenow, MF Liz Smith, GK Nicole Wright.

Of note: Assistant coach John Walker is coach at University of Nebraska, where several Canadian players have played in recent years.

Outlook: In a weak group (other than Norway), Canada could get to quarterfinals. Hooper, a deadly scorer in international competition (30 goals), must be on target. Canadians have dominated non-U.S. opponents in the region but struggle against rest of world.

Russia.

Coach: Yuri Bistritsky.

How qualified: Defeated Finland in European playoff.

Previous World Cups: First appearance.

Top players: MF Irina Grigorieva, F Natalia Barbashina, GK Svetlana Petko, D Marina Burakova, MF Tatiana Egorova.

Of note: Russian women's league has 17 teams in two divisions and 20 indoor teams in two divisions during winter. Bistritsky is former player for famed Spartak Moscow club.

Outlook: Women's soccer is growing in Russia, and the national team is emerging internationally. A second-place finish is possible. Tied Brazil, 2-2, at U.S. Cup '98 and stayed close with Denmark in two qualifying matches.

Group D

China.

Coach: Ma Yuanan.

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.

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.

Australia.

Coach: Greg Brown.

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.

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: Hopeful for second-place finish behind China. National sports federation has pumped money into the women's program in anticipation of 2000 Olympic Games. Players have been training full-time in Canberra for a year.

Ghana.

Coach: Emmanuel Afrani.

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.

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.

Sweden.

Coach: Marika Domanski Lyfors.

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.

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 1985.)

Outlook: Was disappointing as host of '95 Cup, losing to China on penalty kicks in quarterfinals. Newcomers include 20-year-old Ljungberg and 22-year-old Svensson. Expected to advance, but could lose to Australia.