FIFA.com takes a look back over the main happenings and most significant developments of an always eventful 12 months of women's football Betting with Paddy Power
Algarve Cup culminates in clash of the titans
The Algarve Cup has been an annual fixture on the calendar since 1994, rapidly developing into a closely-watched barometer of the prevailing hierarchy in the women’s international game. True to form, the 20th edition duly produced a clash of the titans in the final when USA took on Germany. Alex Morgan struck a brace to settle it in favour of the Stars & Stripes, handing US coach Tom Sermanni a first trophy in the job.
Germans prevail in Sweden
Germany coach Silvia Neid’s revamped team came off second best at the Algarve Cup, but went one better at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013, despite an inauspicious start to the tournament out of kilter with their status as the continent’s top team. To begin with, the best football came from the likes of France, hosts Sweden and Norway, who even beat the defending champions in their group. However, the name on the trophy at the end of the day was a highly familiar one. The Germans never really hit the footballing heights they are familiar with, but did exactly what they seem to do best, namely win when it counts. The Norwegians matched their opponents every step of the way in the final, but an Anja Mittag strike and two stunning penalty saves by Nadine Angerer meant powerhouses Germany claimed the European title for the sixth time in a row.
World Cup qualifying highlights gulf in class
The Germans and France have sent out crystal-clear messages of intent in the battle for places at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada. The European champions have maximum points from five matches in Group 1 and comfortably lead the section after scoring 40 goals and conceding none. The French have also roared off the blocks with 12 points from four games, and provided an ominous display of firepower with no fewer than 24 goals in a double-header against unfortunate Bulgaria. Spain, England and Switzerland also lead their groups, but Pia Sundhage’s Swedes currently trail leaders Scotland in Group 4. The situation is at its tightest in Group 5, where Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway are dead level on points at the top.
Coaching merry-go-round in full swing
Les Bleuettes arrived in Sweden for the EURO with realistic visions of competing for the trophy, but coach Bruno Bini’s fancied side fell to a shock quarter-final defeat against Denmark. In the aftermath, the widespread sense of underachievement persuaded the French Association (FFF) to act. Bini’s contract expired after the European Championship and was not renewed, with Philippe Bergeroo brought in to fill the vacancy. England’s desperately poor showing in Sweden led to a similar outcome, as Hope Powell was relieved of her coaching duties after 15 years in the job. Powell took the hot seat in 1998, subsequently leading her country to four European Championship appearances and the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finals in 2007 and 2011. Mark Sampson was named as Powell’s successor in December. The Welshman has signed on for four years as national coach.
Line-up for Costa Rica 2014 confirmed
Qualifying for the Women’s World Cup 2015 is only just picking up speed, but in the most junior age group Germany, Spain and Italy claimed the last remaining tickets for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2014 in Costa Rica. A total of 16 teams will contest the tournament from 15 March to 4 April. The groups were drawn on 17 December in San Jose.
Portland Thorns claim inaugural title in USA
Eight teams spread across the entire country from Seattle and Portland in the west to Washington, New Jersey and Boston in the east set off into a new footballing era with the first round of National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) matches last April. The clubs were striving to be champions of the USA in a single national league. Four months later Western New York Flash and Portland Thorns met in the final, with Portland emerging 2-0 winners. Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair scored the goals as Portland claimed the inaugural NWSL title.
Treble for Wolfsburg as Lyon relinquish throne
German giants Bayern Munich’s achievements in the men’s game were emulated by VfL Wolfsburg in the women’s variant. The Wolverines celebrated wildly on the last day of the 2012/13 Bundesliga season when they sealed their maiden national championship, before completing a clean sweep of the German domestic honours a week later with a DFB-Pokal victory over Turbine Postdam. Wolfsburg then added the crowning glory in the final of the UEFA Champions League with the historic dethroning of French champions Olympique Lyonnais. Martina Muller tucked away a 74th-minute penalty to seal the treble and complete a dream season for Wolfsburg, who are motoring smoothly in Europe’s elite club competition this term too. Coach Ralf Kellermann’s side are safely through to the quarter-finals, but Lyon’s European campaign is already over as the two-time Champions League winners fell to a shock Round of 16 defeat to Potsdam.
Awards and farewells
Third time lucky for Pia
As always, the year began with a very special event in the shape of the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala. The gathering at Zurich Kongresshaus included the presentation of the award for the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and the FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year 2012. Pia Sundhage was a nominee for the coaching award for the third time in a row, and the Swede took the trophy home on this occasion. The World Player accolade went to USA stalwart Abby Wambach. The pair have a decent chance of a repeat performance in 2014 as both are again nominees for the coveted awards.
Honour and recognition for Prinz
Former world-class striker Birgit Prinz has been named an honorary captain by the German FA (DFB). The 35-year-old is the second woman to be granted the prestigious title, previously awarded to Bettina Wiegmann. In his citation, DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach described Prinz as "the greatest ambassador" for the game.
Angerer named Best Player in Europe
It was certainly a good year for Germany keeper Nadine Angerer. After emerging as the German hero in the UEFA Women’s EURO final the 35-year-old was named Best Player in Europe by UEFA. Angerer’s fine form has not gone unnoticed on the world stage either, as she is a nominee for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2013.
Bompastor and Pedersen bow out
France star Sonia Bompastor and Denmark’s Katrine Pedersen have both brought down the curtain on illustrious careers. Bompastor, credited with a pivotal role in the explosive development of French women’s football over recent years, finished with eight league championship winner’s medals and two European trophy triumphs. Her 12 years at the top also yielded a remarkable 156 international caps. Long-serving Denmark captain Pedersen is her country’s most-capped player with 210 games in a national team career spanning two decades.
FIFA’s Live Your Goals initiative aims to inspire and motivate even more young girls and women to play football and reap all the positive benefits of actively participating in the sport. In 2013 some 8,700 girls and women took part in 51 festivals all over the world, including Costa Rica, Japan, Vanuatu and the Republic of Ireland. World football’s governing body also staged 43 coaching workshops and 11 refereeing seminars. Overall, 143 projects were devoted to the women’s game in 2013.
Quotes of the year
"The word football doesn’t differentiate between male and female. Football is a game featuring 22 players and one ball, and it’s the same for both men and women!" Albania national coach Altin Rrakli
"It’s hard to imagine doing better than this year. It’s definitely the exception when you win three trophies with your club. We might go on and win more titles, but there certainly won’t be anything to beat winning three trophies with Wolfsburg,“ Germany international Lena Goessling on the Wolverines’ treble triumph
– but the sailors praise the new boats
Photo Credit: Dario Belingheri/Bettini Photo
photo David Cannon/Getty images