Holders Japan await Women's World Cup fate

Defending champions Japan are among four previous winners who will find out later on Saturday how tough their group will be at next year`s Women`s World Cup when the draw takes place in Ottawa.

Holders Japan await Women's World Cup fate

Ottawa: Defending champions Japan are among four previous winners who will find out later on Saturday how tough their group will be at next year`s Women`s World Cup when the draw takes place in Ottawa.

Despite their nickname Nadeshiko -- a flower symbolising grace and beauty -- the Japanese have earned a reputation as giant-killers and are among the top seeds.

The women`s tournament has taken place every four years since the inaugural event in China in 1991 and for the first time there will be 24 and not 16 teams in the draw.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke will officiate at the ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History.

Teams will be drawn into six groups of four, with first-round matches to be played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.

The top two in each group will qualify for the last 16 along with four best third place finishers.

The opening match will take place in Edmonton on June 6 with the final set for Vancouver on July 5.

Despite controversy over the plastic pitches for the event Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki insisted they can adapt after beating Canada in a friendly on the surface in Edmonton in October.

"If we get used to it, I know we can handle it well," Sasaki said.

"The stadium is wonderful, and it`s very big. I think for the players it was very encouraging and a good opportunity for us to play here."

Japan lifted the trophy with a dramatic win over the United States in Germany four years ago, delivering a boost to their country months after a deadly earthquake and tsunami.

But the United States gained revenge by winning the Olympic gold ahead of Japan, with Canada taking bronze and France finishing fourth.

The USA are FIFA`s top ranked team ahead of fellow two-time winners Germany, and Japan. Norway, the other former champion, are ranked ninth.

Japan are in Pot 1 along with the United States, Germany, Brazil, Canada and France.

In pot 3 are former powerhouse China, while pot 4 is full of dangerous teams including fifth-ranked Sweden, European finalists Norway and a fast-improving Spain.

"We`re calm ahead of the draw. We`ll see. We already know that we`re going to come up against some great teams," France coach Philippe Bergeroo told AFP.

"We`ve done the rounds, we`ve tried to play all types of football. The only football we don`t know that well is African. But after the draw myself and my staff will travel to see how our rivals play."

"A team that worries me is Spain," he continued.

"They came out on top of their pool. We asked to play them but it wasn`t possible, they play few friendlies, they work by themselves and no-one really knows what`s goes on. They`re in the process of preparing something."

France have lined up friendlies in 2015 against the United States and England as well as a tournament in Portugal in March.
Pot 1: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, United States

Pot 2: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand

Pot 3: Australia, China, South Korea, Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador

Pot 4: England, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

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