While the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup naturally dominates the landscape in the female game, there has been a variety of top-level action over the past month. FIFA.comlooks back.
Giants flex their muscles
There were ominous signs for those hoping to upset women’s football’s traditional order at Canada 2015, with Germany and USA registering emphatic friendly wins over fellow participants. The Germans were especially impressive as they cruised to a 4-0 victory over South American champions Brazil in front of 15,043 in Furth. Celia Sasic, Simone Laudehr, Melanie Leupolz and Dzsenifer Marozsan were all on target in a match that led coach Silvia Neid to declare herself “completely in love with my team” in a post-match TV interview. Jill Ellis merely described herself as “pleased”, meanwhile, after her USA side racked up an identical scoreline against New Zealand. An impressive crowd of 35,817 in St. Louis cheered the Stars & Stripes on to a win that was secured by goals from Meghan Klingenberg, Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston and Morgan Brian. France seem as likely to challenge the big two as anyone and they also claimed a morale-boosting victory, edging Canada by a single Eugenie Le Sommer goal at the Stade Robert Bobin.
Debutants, outsiders impress
Much intrigue surrounds the likely impact of the Women’s World Cup debutants, and several have offered encouraging indications. The Netherlands, for example, saw off former champions Norway 3-2 in a recent friendly, while Spain registered an assured 1-0 win over the ever-improving Republic of Ireland. Yet the most impressive result of all came from Switzerland, who confirmed their status as potential dark horses with a 3-1 win away to Sweden, one of the traditional giants of the women’s game. The Swedes, meanwhile, will be concerned by preparations that have also included a similarly porous performance in a 3-3 draw with Denmark.
Hosts’ hopefuls named
The final signpost before the Women’s World Cup – the naming of squads – is now upon us, with Canada among the first to announce their roster*. And while John Herdman’s side will inevitably feel the pressure that comes with the role as hosts, they could hardly wish for a more experienced group of players to bear that burden. Captain and star striker Christine Sinclair is, after all, one of no fewer than six players with over 100 international appearances, while another six have already made more than 80. But there is youth too, with impressive defender Kadeisha Buchanan among three players to have graduated from last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup squad.
Titans clash in Europe
Berlin is set for a potentially thrilling UEFA Women’s Champions League final on 14 May, with Paris Saint-Germain and 1.FFC Frankfurt having qualified for Europe’s club showpiece. The manner in which these French and German giants progressed, however, could hardly have contrasted more starkly. PSG had it exceptionally tough, as expected, against a Wolfsburg side that had won the title in each of the previous two seasons. Indeed, despite winning 2-0 away and taking an early lead in Paris, the French side were left hanging on as two second-half goals took Wolfsburg to the brink of a great escape. There was no such uncertainty for Frankfurt, who swept Brondby aside in the other semi, following up a 7-0 first-leg win by crushing the Danes 6-0 on their own turf.
Chelsea setting the standard
Following the example of their male counterparts, Chelsea Ladies are currently leading from the front in England’s top flight. The Londoners have emerged with an unblemished record from their opening four matches of the Women’s Super League season, with Eniola Aluko and influential captain Katie Chapman –match-winner in their most recent win, away to Birmingham City – among the pace-setters’ key players. Arsenal, until recently England’s dominant force, are two points behind their London rivals, with Spain striker Natalia having weighed in with a couple of goals as the Gunners stayed within touching distance by beating Sunderland 4-1. As for defending champions Liverpool, they currently sit third after recovering from a sticky start. Asisat Oshoala, their star Nigerian import, typified the Reds’ early problems, but has begun to show signs of her undoubted class, scoring one and laying on another in the recent win over Manchester City.
Thorns make early running
USA’s NWSL has also got underway over the past month, with Portland Thorns – boasting a squad that includes the likes of Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan – currently leading the way. The Thorns are only of only two teams still unbeaten, with the others being Chicago Red Stars. The latter outfit have played a game fewer and will be hoping that in-form striker Christen Press – the league’s top scorer with four goals from just two appearances – can help fire them to glory.
The final fortnight of April was a grand one for women’s football in Tonga, where just one of many development activities around the globe during the month was held. A new women’s league commenced in the Polynesia nation featuring 15 participating teams, with the competition part of FIFA’s Women’s Football Development Programme. Meanwhile, with the assistance of OFC a FIFA Women’s Football Coaching Course and Grassroots festival was also conducted.
13 – The number of unanswered goals that saw 1.FFC Frankfurt set a new record aggregate scoreline in a UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final. The Germans’ demolition of Brondby eclipsed the benchmark of set when Sweden’s Umea beat Norway’s Kolbotn 11-1 in 2006.
“I’m not flashy, I’m not very charismatic. I’m a coach who is like a dad to the players.”
Japan coach Norio Sasaki
Courtois Straight Through to the Semis
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day