FIFA.com reviews another action-packed month in the female game, with Olympic berths decided, surprises in EURO qualifying, a starring role for Abby Wambach, and silverware handed over in Korea Republic and England.
Trio make Bundesliga running
With four games played, a triumvirate of familiar names are already setting the pace at the top of the Frauen-Bundesliga. Duisburg, Frankfurt and Turbine Potsdam all boast an unblemished record, with the latter pair still to concede and Duisburg topping the table by virtue of a superior number of goals scored. Turbine are aiming for a fourth successive title, and they also have designs on European glory, with their UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign having got off to the perfect start with a 6-0 win away to Thor of Iceland. The round of 32 has proved more difficult for Frankfurt, however, with the three-time winners facing the task of overturning a stunning 1-0 first-leg defeat by Norway's Stabaek.
WK-League glory for Goyang
Yesterday witnessed the crowning of new champions in Korea Republic’s WK-League, with Goyang Daekyo emerging triumphant from a thrilling championship play-off against Hyundai Steel. Having topped the regular season table, Goyang capped an impressive campaign by winning 3-1 away to second-placed Hyundai, who had forced a 2-2 draw in the first leg. Cha Yun-Hee was named the final’s MVP, having set up the first for Yoo Han-Byul and then added a second herself, while Pretinha – the league’s top scorer with 18 goals from 19 appearances – was also on target. It is the second title won by Goyang, who also triumphed in the league’s inaugural season in 2009, while Hyundai have now finished runners-up for the third year in succession.
Gunners’ treble yell
Arsenal’s iron grip on England’s honours was strengthened on Sunday when the Gunners added the final piece of a domestic treble by beating Birmingham City 4-1 in the Continental Cup final. England star Rachel Yankey struck twice as the Women's Super League and FA Cup winners cruised past a Birmingham side that had also finished runners-up to Arsenal in this, the WLS’s inaugural season.
London calling for Asian and African hopefuls
The Women’s Olympic Football Tournament continues to take shape, with Japan, Korea DPR and South Africa all having booked their tickets to London 2012 over the past month. In Asia, world champions Japan lived up to their billing by topping a competitive six-team section, while the North Koreans’ renowned fighting spirit came to the fore as they bounced back from a disappointing Germany 2011 campaign to snatch second spot ahead of Australia, China PR, Korea Republic and Thailand. Next to secure their place were South Africa, who qualified for the Olympics for the first time with a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia. Joining Banyana Banyana from Africa will be either Cameroon or Nigeria, with the latter holding a 2-1 lead ahead of the decisive away leg on 22 October
Wambach stars in regional series
Any concerns of a USA hangover following that heartbreaking FIFA Women’s World Cup™ final defeat were dispelled this month as Pia Sundhage’s side impressed in their first matches since Germany 2011. Abby Wambach proved to be the star of a two-match ‘Celebration Series’ against North American rivals Canada, finding the net in a 1-1 draw in Kansas before grabbing a double as the US ran out comfortable 3-0 victors in Portland. In the latter fixture, a near-capacity crowd of 18,570 watched Wambach take her international goal tally to 125, leaving the 31-year-old just five behind Kristine Lilly’s final tally, albeit still 33 separating her from national record-holder Mia Hamm. Alex Morgan was also on target for a USA side now unbeaten in their last 54 home matches.
Surprises en route to Sweden
The qualifying competition for the 2013 UEFA Women’s EURO in Sweden may still be in its formative stages, but already there have been a couple of shock results, with England and Norway among those slipping up. Hope Powell blamed “sloppy play” for her Lionesses dropping points in a 2-2 draw away to Serbia, while the Norwegians fared even worse, going down 3-1 to early Group 3 leaders Iceland. Germany, meanwhile, bounced back from their disappointing FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign by beating Switzerland 4-1, a match in which Fatmire Bajramaj scored twice to settle the holders’ nerves.
September has also witnessed some significant changes in international dugouts, with the most eye-catching being John Herdman’s move from New Zealand to Canada. The Englishman had led the Football Ferns to two FIFA Women’s World Cups and the 2008 Olympics, not to mention two continental titles, but was tempted by the challenge of chasing the game’s ultimate prize with the hosts of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. “It’s exciting personally and professionally to go on to coach a team that’s got the potential to win a World Cup in their own country,” he said after agreeing to succeed Carolina Morace. Replacing Herdman at the New Zealand helm is his former assistant, Tony Readings, who also coached the U-20s, a role he will now combine with the senior job.
It has been another busy month for FIFA’s Development division, with eight courses taking place in Egypt, Madagascar, Morocco, Palestine, Philipines, Samoa, Senegal and the Turks and Caicos Islands. There have also been three separate Com-Unity seminars, with these highly successful events in Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica and Mali each concluded with the staging of a girls’ football festival.
141 – The number of matches overseen by Hope Powell since becoming England coach in 1998. This represents a national record for both the female and male game, with the recent EURO qualifiers against Serbia and Slovenia having taken Powell beyond Sir Walter Winterbottom, who took charge of the men’s side 139 times between 1946 and 1962.
“In Japan, conquering the Olympics is what matters most for women. I am happy that we have won the World Cup but it won't mean anything if we end it there,” Japan captain Homare Sawa, stressing the importance of London 2012.