The month of April saw preparations for the fast-approaching FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 take a temporary back seat as high-profile domestic competitions commenced. England’s revamped national league got underway as did the third season of USA’s Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) competition.
FIFA.com’s monthly review of women’s football also takes a look at continental club football, where the finalists of the UEFA Women’s Champions League have been determined. Meanwhile, on the international front the preparations of top-ranked USA have stepped up, despite a stunning loss against England which ended a remarkable unbeaten run.
New dawn breaks in England
The long-awaited English Women’s Super League successfully commenced in mid-April, kicking off with Arsenal scoring a 1-0 win at Chelsea Ladies in front of a national television audience. Arsenal defender Gilly Flaherty claimed the honour of the first goalscorer in the elite eight-team national competition, which will conclude in August with a lengthy break during June and July to accommodate Germany 2011.
History repeats for Euro elite
The UEFA Women’s Champions League will be a repeat of last year’s contest between German giants Turbine Potsdam and France’s Olympique Lyon. Japan international Yuki Nagasato scored the crucial goal that settled the semi-final second leg against Duisburg in Potsdam's favour, following a 2-2 first leg draw. Potsdam, who defeated Lyon on penalties in last season's finale, have the chance to become the first team since Sweden’s Umea in 2004 to retain the trophy when they meet the French side at Craven Cottage in London on 26 May. Eugenie Le Sommer scored twice for Lyon as the French heavyweights defeated Arsenal 3-2 for a comfortable 5-2 aggregate scoreline.
Bajramaj on the move
The other major news from Germany is FFC Frankfurt’s signing of FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominee Fatmire Bajramaj from Bundesliga rivals Turbine Potsdam. The 23-year-old Germany playmaker has signed a three-year deal at Frankfurt, with the 2011 league runners-up also capturing the signatures of Potsdam goalkeeper Desiree Schumann and Hamburg duo Kim Kulig and Ana Maria Crnogorcevic.
New faces arrive in Sweden
A number of new faces took to the field for the commencement of Sweden’s perennially strong Damallsvenskan, including former Boston Breakers forward Jennifer Nobis and Irish international Fiona O’Sullivan, both at Pitea IF. Prolific young Swiss forward Ramona Bachmann has linked up with Umea, while a couple of key Germany 2011 participants – Japan’s Mami Yamaguchi and Australia’s Heather Garriock – will spend the next few months at Hammarby and Malmo respectively.
USA season opens up
The third Women’s Professional Soccer season has commenced in the USA, capturing a host of international players spread across the seven teams. Marta has helped new club Western New York Flash take an early lead at the top of the standings, with the Brazilian superstar scoring her first of the season in last week’s 2-2 draw against Atlanta Beat. With just six matches in total played to date, two players likely to feature prominently at Germany 2011 – Canada’s Christine Sinclair and USA’s Carli Lloyd – share top spot in the goalscoring stakes.
Americans ramp up preparations
USA coach Pia Sundhage has begun a three-week camp in Florida featuring 29 players, as the world’s top-ranked nation seek their first FIFA Women’s World Cup title since 1999. The Stars and Stripes squad members are remaining in camp on weekdays and will turn out for their respective WPS clubs on weekends.
Germany 2011 comes into focus
FIFA Women’s World Cup preparations largely took a back seat during the month, with the most notable result undoubtedly being recorded by England, who bounced back from a modest Cyprus Cup campaign to inflict a friendly defeat on USA with a 2-1 scoreline in London. Jessica Clark and Rachel Yankey scored first-half goals to send the home team on their way, with the Americans able to take some solace from a return to the international arena for goalkeeper Hope Solo. In other international action, Sweden edged past in-form Canada 1-0, while Mexico defeated FIFA Women’s World Cup debutants Colombia in two high-scoring matches.
The month opened with a coaching course conducted in Albania, which was a follow-up to another activity organised by FIFA in the country two years ago. Later in April, Guinea received the benefit of a FIFA course which, led by Algerian instructor Azzedine Chih, was the first women’s football course conducted by the world governing body in the African nation.
7 – The numbers of years since USA have been defeated in a friendly international before losing to England early in April. The Stars and Stripes will also put a 49-match undefeated home record on the line next month when Japan play two matches Stateside.
“A World Cup is not just about on-the-field matters but the off-field preparations as well: knowing who you’re up against, being able to counter all their strengths, and making things work in your favour.” England coach Hope Powell talking exclusively to FIFA.com