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Women's World Cup Soccer Begins in Shanghai

The fifth FIFA Women's World Cup football tournament kicks off Monday in Shanghai, China. VOA's Jim Stevenson is at the event and has this preview.

China is again hosting the premier event in women's football after holding the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991. An outbreak of SARS prevented China from hosting the last World Cup in 2003. The event was held instead in the United States. The tournament now returns to the birthplace of the game, and it is also helping to boost preparations for the Beijing Olympics in less than one year.

Shanghai is the primary host city for the Women's World Cup, which also features games in Chengdu, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Tianjin.

Defending champion Germany plays Argentina in the opening game at Hongkou Football Stadium. Under coach Silvia Neid, Germany has maintained a strong team since 2003 despite slipping behind top-rated United States in the world rankings.

The Argentine women do not enjoy the same popularity in their homeland as the men's national team. And the South American squad takes the field in the Group A contest without several injured players and Catalina Perez, who was suspended after being ejected in an earlier game against Brazil. Still, the team has made progress under coach Carlos Borello.

Teams from 16 nations are divided into four first round groups. World number one United States is in Group B while host China is in Group D. The Women's World Cup final is September 30 in Shanghai.