Colombia face tough World Cup debut against Sweden

LEVERKUSEN, Germany, June 27, 2011 (AFP) - Colombia face a baptism of fire in their first ever FIFA Women's World Cup in a tough Group C where they open against European heavyweights Sweden here on Tuesday.

The experienced Swedes are old hands on the world stage having competed in all five previous World Cup finals, finishing runners-up to Germany in 2003, and third in the inaugural event in 1991.

The young Colombians find themselves in the 'group of death' that also includes the United States - the two-time world and Olympic champions and the top ranked FIFA team - and North Korea.

The Swedes are ranked fifth with Colombia, South American runners-up last year, ranked 31st, and Asian hopefuls North Korea, eighth.

Hopes are high however among the Colombian team which includes nine players who surprised by finishing fourth in the under-20 World Cup last year in Germany which was won by the hosts.

"We're preparing with a view to going all the way; that's our dream," said 17-year-old Colombian midfielder Yoreli Rinco.

"With God's help, we’ll go far in this competition. It would be extraordinary to come up against Brazil and (striker) Marta in the final.

"Victory would strengthen belief in women’s football in Colombia and who knows maybe it would help me be voted World Player of the Year."

Colombia lost a warm-up match against World Cup rivals New Zealand but achieved a confidence-boosting win over Denmark on penalties.

"These matches helped up get in form for the World Cup and we're heading to Germany with high hopes," said coach Ricardo Rozo.

The South Americans will be looking to get some experience under their belts before they clash with the United States on July 2 in Sinsheim, with their final group game against North Korea in Bochum four days later.

Sweden, the 1984 European champions, are looking to return to the glory days on the 1990s. They next play North Korea on July 2 in Augsburg and the United States on July 6 in Wolfsburg.

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