FIFA.com reports on another busy month in the world of women’s football, with international qualifiers and domestic action taking place, and the Olympics looming large on the horizon
EURO success for continent’s big guns
Next year’s UEFA Women’s EURO is steadily taking shape, with Germany and Italy becoming the first teams to secure their tickets to the finals. The Italians have been the revelation of these preliminaries, winning all eight matches, scoring 34 goals and conceding none, so a 9-0 thrashing of FYR Macedonia earlier this month merely confirmed the inevitable. Germany qualified without kicking a ball thanks to Switzerland’s 4-3 win over their closest challengers, Spain, while Denmark, England, Finland, France and the Netherlands all stand on the verge of joining them. Beyond the usual suspects, Austria, Belarus, Belgium and Scotland remain firmly in the hunt for a place at Sweden 2013 ahead of the final group matches in September.
Olympic hopefuls limber up
An early gauge of the Olympic favourites’ pre-tournament form was provided at the recent Volvo Winners Cup in Sweden, which took place between 16 and 20 June. Although the tournament involved just three teams, lending it added significance was the fact that the sides involved were Japan, USA and the Swedes - the top three finishers at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. All three impressed in flashes, but the signs were most encouraging for Pia Sundhage’s Americans, who took the trophy thanks to back-to-back wins in the round-robin event. Strikers Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan were in outstanding form, with both on target in a 3-1 win over the hosts before each grabbed a brace to end their team's three-game winless streak against Japan in a 4-1 victory.
U-20 draw, U-17 qualifiers
Tokyo was the venue for the Official Draw for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Japan 2012, and what transpired merely served to whet the appetite for the August/September finals. The standout section proved to be Group D, which pits holders Germany against two-time champions USA, 2006 finalists China PR and the exciting African hopefuls, Ghana. In FIFA’s U-17 showpiece, meanwhile, which will be held in Azerbaijan across September and October, the final tickets have been handed out in Europe, with Germany and France the deserving recipients. Semi-final wins over Denmark and Switzerland respectively at the UEFA European Women’s U-17 Championship secured the duo's places, with the Germans ultimately taking the trophy 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the final.
Marta and Co stumble in Sweden
Tyreso remain top in Sweden, but the initiative in the Damallsvenskan has been handed to Malmo after the star-studded leaders were held to a 1-1 draw at third-place Vittsjo yesterday. It could have been even worse for Tyreso, whose star strikers Marta and Veronica Boquete were kept subdued, but for a 74th-minute equaliser from Lisa Dahlqvist. Malmo, who won 2-1 at home to Linkoping on Tuesday, with Swiss star Ramona Bachmann scoring the winner, are now just a point behind and have a potentially crucial game in hand.
Stabaek set the pace
There is no debate over the form team in Norway’s Toppserien, with Stabaek yet to taste defeat in 12 matches thus far. Yesterday’s 7-1 win at Sanviken was their seventh in succession, and Ada Hegerburg was again on target to stretch her lead at the top of the league’s scoring chart. With reigning champions Roa still struggling, it has been left to Lillestrom to keep pace with Stabaek, and they managed that yesterday with a hard-fought 2-1 win away to Kattem. For the second time in the space of a week, Isabell Herlovsen struck the match-winning goal to keep her side just a point off the rampant leaders.
Leonessa lead at the split
Japan's L1-League reached its halfway point earlier this month with reigning champions INAC Leonessa holding a five-point lead at the top of the table. Top-flight action will resume in September following the conclusion of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012, and the chasing pack face quite a challenge catching the Kobe outfit. Leonessa remain unbeaten and have dropped just two points in their nine matches thus far, with Yunogo Belle and 12-time champions NTV Beleza – six and five points behind respectively – the only teams left with a realistic chance of catching them.
2 – The number of non-English players in Hope Powell’s historic Great Britain squad for the forthcoming Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. The ladies in question, prolific Arsenal striker Kim Little and Vittsjo defender Ifeoma Dieke, are both Scots.
Quote of the month
"We all grow up watching the Olympics. Nothing is like watching your flag rise and having a gold medal round your neck. I hope to experience that again," Abby Wambach looks forward to London 2012