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Women’s World Cup: Favorites Canada and Japan open play on Monday

Women’s World Cup: Favorites Canada and Japan open play on Monday
Christine Sinclair and Canada will open Women's World Cup play on Monday against Cameroon. (Quinn Rooney / Getty Images)

What to watch for in the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament on Monday:

GROUP D

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ARGENTINA VS. JAPAN

Where: Parc des Princes, Paris

Time: 9 a.m. PDT

TV: FS1, Universo

The buzz: Japan, the reigning Asian champion, made it to the finals of the last two Women’s World Cups, beating the U.S. in 2011 and losing to the Americans in 2015. This is a new team with a new coach. Asako Takakura, the first woman to manage the national team, has returned just five of the 14 players who appeared in the 2015 final, although she’s kept Japan’s traditional quick-passing, technically savvy attacking style, one that relies heavily on the abilities of forwards Kumi Yokoyama and Mana Iwabuchi. Although seventh-ranked Japan has played in every Women’s World Cup, Argentina missed the last two, and its national program was disbanded entirely for more than two years following the 2015 Pan American Games. As a result, the team has little international experience, but it does have talent, especially in 22-year-old forward Milagros Menéndez. Argentina needed to beat Panama in a two-game playoff last fall to win one of the final berths in this tournament.

GROUP E

CANADA VS. CAMEROON

Where: Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier, France

Time: Noon PDT

TV: FS1, Universo

The buzz: Canada is on a roll, having won bronze in the last two Olympics and reaching the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup it hosted four years ago. And its No. 5 world ranking is one spot off its best ever. That puts a lot of pressure on this team, which has a core four — Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott and Stephanie Labbe — who are over 30 and likely playing in their last Women’s World Cup. Sinclair, with 181 career international goals, is poised to break American Abby Wambach’s record of 184. This should be a relatively easy warmup for Canada, although No. 46 Cameroon, which made its Women’s World Cup debut four years ago, returns 11 of the 13 players who took part in its round-of-16 loss to China in that tournament. Forward Gaelle Enganamouit, who has played for several European clubs, made history in 2015 by scoring a hat trick in her country’s first Women’s World Cup game.

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