• Kyodo


Japan has been drawn alongside England, Scotland and Argentina in Group D of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and will open its campaign against the South Americans after the draw, based on world rankings, took place Saturday.

One of 24 participating teams, including host nation France and eight European qualifiers, world No. 8 Japan was handed a favorable opening-match opponent — Argentina is ranked 36th in the world — as it begins its quest for a second World Cup title, having won the 2011 edition.

After the opening match on June 10, Asako Takakura’s side — the runner-up at the last World Cup in 2015 — will meet Scotland on June 14 and England on June 19.

“There isn’t going to be an easy match, but if we play well in the opener the team can build off that momentum,” Takakura said.

“I’m hoping we can book a spot (in the round of 16) before the third match, but all we do is take one game at a time,” she said.

The competition, which begins June 7, will feature six groups of four teams with the top two from each group plus the four best third-placed teams progressing to the knockout phase.

The No. 1-ranked U.S., the defending champion, landed in the same group with Sweden for the fifth straight World Cup and the sixth time overall. Also in Group F are Thailand and Chile, which is making its World Cup debut.

Sweden, ranked No. 9 in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, will face its American foe on June 20 in Le Havre. It will be the final group match for both teams.

“This is the first time for me (against the U.S.) but I know about the history, tough games during many years. We feel that we have a chance and that’s the most important thing,” said coach Peter Gerhardsson, who took over the team after Pia Sundhage’s retirement in 2017.

France will face South Korea in the tournament opener on June 7.

France has gone 7-1-2 this year, with the loss coming against England in the SheBelieves Cup in the United States. This will be the fourth World Cup for Les Bleues.

Didier Deschamps, who coached the French men to victory in that side’s World Cup in Russia five months ago, got a huge roar Saturday as he walked onto stage. He said he’s confident in Les Bleus under coach Corinne Diacre.

“I don’t have advice to give to Corinne, she knows women’s football far better than me. We’ve spoken several times, she knows that I’m at her disposal,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot of expectation from the fans and media. Corinne and her staff know what awaits, but that shouldn’t be a negative thing.”

The draw took place inside La Seine Musicale, a dome-shaped concert hall perched over the river Seine on the outskirts of Paris — and far enough away from the center not to be affected by the vehement anti-government demonstrations taking place in the country.

The groups that will play next year in France:

Group A: France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria.

Group B: Germany, China, Spain, South Africa.

Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica.

Group D: England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan.

Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands.

Group F: United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden.

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