A dramatic and hugely eventful month in women's football has just come to a close, with FIFA Women's World Cup™ places, trophies, transfers and award shortlists all decided. FIFA.com rounds up the main events.
Continental giants lead Canada charge
USA, Nigeria and New Zealand have long dominated their respective continents, and that stranglehold was maintained as CONCACAF, CAF and OFC determined their Women's World Cup participants. The US were in awesome form at the CONCACAF Women's Championship, scoring 21 unanswered goals in a campaign that culminated in a 6-0 victory over Costa Rica. Las Ticas, however, were comforted by having qualified for the world finals for the first time, while Mexico edged out Trinidad and Tobago for the final automatic berth, leaving T&T to face an intercontinental play-off against Ecuador. New Zealand, for their part, were just as emphatic in Oceania. OFC Women's Nations Cup hosts Papua New Guinea posed the main threat, but were ultimately swept aside as the Kiwis racked up an aggregate tournament score of 31-0 en route to claiming their confederation's only slot. Nigeria were always likely to have it tougher in the CAF African Women's Championship, a tournament they had lost twice in the past three editions, but they re-asserted their traditional dominance to take the trophy for a seventh time. Cameroon, beaten 2-0 in the final, still succeeded in securing a first-ever Women's World Cup berth, as did Côte d'Ivoire, who finished third.
Play-off drama in Europe
Besides that intercontinental play-off between Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago, just one more place at Canada 2015 remains up for grabs - and it will be decided in Europe. Italy and the Netherlands will be the teams hoping to make it better late than never after seeing off Ukraine and Scotland respectively in the continent's play-off semi-finals. The Italians, 2-1 up from the home leg, had looked to be heading out when they went 2-0 down in Wednesday's return, but second-half goals from stalwarts Melania Gabbiadini and Patrizia Panico inspired a memorable comeback. The Dutch, for their part, were classy and clinical in dispatching Scotland 4-1 on aggregate, with the impressive Manon Melis on target in both legs. The play-off final will now take place on 22/23 and 26/27 November.
Heavyweight duels whet appetite
Many of the Canada 2015 favourites have, of course, long since secured their places and several of those teams were in action over the past month. Among the more significant encounters saw France claim an impressive 2-0 win away to European champions Germany. A Bianca Schmidt own goal and a strike from the speedy Elodie Thomis secured victory in a match that also witnessed a senior debut for attacking midfielder Claire Lavogez. The Germans, though, bounced back earlier this week, recording a 2-1 win over Sweden, for whom Lotta Schelin scored her 73rd goal to break Hanna Ljungberg's national record. Reigning champions Japan also served a reminder that they won't surrender their trophy without a fight, achieving back-to-back wins away to Canada. A 3-0 victory last Saturday provided a rude awakening for the 2015 hosts and while the second match proved closer, with Japan winning by the odd goal in five, Canada coach John Herdman still has some questions to ponder before the big kick-off.
Liverpool triumph in dramatic finale
The FA Women's Super League will remain at Anfield for another season, but only after the most dramatic conclusion to the 2014 campaign. The odds were stacked against Liverpool retaining their crown going into the final round of matches, with Chelsea and Birmingham City both better placed in the table. The Reds needed not only to beat Bristol Academy, but for Chelsea to lose at Manchester City and Birmingham to drop points against Notts County. Unlikely as that seemed, all the pieces fell into place, with Chelsea losing 2-1 at City, Birmingham drawing 2-2 and Liverpool themselves winning 3-0. City, meanwhile, concluded their campaign in style by going on to beat Arsenal 1-0 in the final of the Continental Cup.
Big names on the move
The business of player trading has been as brisk as ever at this time of year in USA, with some big names on the move within the National Women's Soccer League. US internationals have been at the heart of the activity, among them Carli Lloyd, who swapped Western New York Flash for Houston Dash, with Whitney Engen and Becky Edwards moving to the Big Apple in part-exchange. Heather O'Reilly has also been on the move, further strengthening the reigning NWSL champions FC Kansas City, while Sky Blue have signed former Umea midfielder Shawna Gordon and USA U-23 keeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Ballon d'Or shortlists revealed
The players and coaches in contention to be named the best in women's football were unveiled last week, and the shortlists made for interesting reading. Nadine Angerer could yet reclaim the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award she won last year, with Veronica Boquete, Nilla Fischer, Nahomi Kawasumi, Nadine Kessler, Marta, Aya Miyama, Louisa Necib, Lotta Schelin and Abby Wambach the others in the running. Silvia Neid will, though, be succeeded as FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football, with Philippe Bergeroo, Peter Dedevbo, Laura Harvey, Ralf Kellermann, Maren Meinert, Norio Sasaki, Pia Sundhage, Asako Takemoto Takakura, Jorge Vilda and Martina Voss-Tecklenburg the names to have have made the shortlist.
Among the FIFA development activities taking place this month, there was support for a Senior Women's Competition in Samoa, where all 11 clubs involved received new kit ahead of the competition getting underway.
300 - Christie Rampone earned her 300th cap for USA in the semi-finals of their triumphant CONCACAF campaign, becoming just the second player - after former team-mate Kristine Lilly - to reach this remarkable milestone. "It's more than just a number," said the 39-year-old defender. "It's a representation of how much I've put into the game."
"I am really just doing my job by scoring goals. But it is still great to have achieved 100 and it is an honour to be the first African. I think it also shows that nothing is impossible in football, and showing that is a great achievement."
South Africa striker Portia Modise after becoming the first African women's player to score 100 international goals.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS