US unhappy with World Cup draw
North Korea are handed their place in the Fifa Women's World Cup draw in China.
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2007 13:35 GMT
Former China player Sun Wen, centre, helps with the draw for the 2007 Fifa Women's World Cup [AFP]
The United States, two-time Fifa Women's World Cup champions, cried foul after the draw for this year's event pooled them in the proverbial 'Group of Death' along with 2003 runners-up Sweden, Asia's number one team North  Korea, and Nigeria on Sunday.
The draw ceremony in Wuhan, China was overshadowed by dissatisfaction over North Korea's exemption from the draw, when they were simply placed in Group B apparently to avert an early match-up with hosts China.

Greg Ryan, coach of the US, who are the world's top-ranked team, was clearly furious with the move.

"I don't understand it," Ryan said, adding that no official explanation had been given.

"At this point it doesn't matter. What's done is done.

"We just have to start preparing for North Korea as our first match.

"It's just one that I don't understand."

Reigning champions Germany were given a relatively easy ride against Japan, England and Argentina in Group A.

The draw also smiled on China, runners-up in 1999, who will play Denmark, Brazil and New Zealand in Group D, while world number three Norway will play Ghana, Australia and Canada in Group C.

No explanation

Earlier, officials refused to give a reason for North Korea's pre-arranged placement and stonewalled four separate questions at a bad-tempered press conference on why the Koreans had been taken out of the draw.

Urs Linsi, Fifa general secretary, said the decision had been made by the organising committee, and denied North Korea had been consulted.

"I think if you make a draw you don't ask the teams," he said.

Worawi Makudi, World Cup committee chairman, only said the decision had been made "after careful analysis and study."

The move means North Korea cannot meet China before the semi-finals.

History of the Cup

China hosted the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991 and was scheduled to hold the 2003 edition before the SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome), outbreak prompted a move to the United States.

The US are the most successful World Cup team, winning the first title in 1991 and again in 1999 and reaching the semi-finals in the other two editions.

Their 1999 victory gave women's football its most iconic moment to date, when a record crowd and huge TV audience watched a thrilling penalties win over China.

Norway were the 1995 winners and Germany are the title-holders after their 2-1 golden goal win over Sweden in 2003.

The fifth World Cup will be played from September 10 to 30 this year across the five Chinese cities of Wuhan, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Tianjin.

The top two teams from each group progress to the quarter-finals.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Polio remains endemic in Pakistan as health workers battle anti-vaccine prejudice and threat to life by armed groups.
Despite 14-year struggle for a new mosque in the second-largest city, new roadblocks are erected at every turn.
Authorities and demonstrators have shown no inclination to yield despite growing economic damage and protest pressure.
Lebanese-born Rula Ghani may take cues from the modernising Queen Soraya, but she'll have to proceed with caution.
One of the world's last hunter-gatherer tribes has been forced from the forest it called home by a major dam project.