"Definitely the highlight of 2012 for me was women’s football," FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter declared in a FIFA.com interview a few days ago. Along with the FIFA President, the entire football world reflected on a breathtaking year for the women's game in January. The prestigious FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala at the beginning of the month brought all the highlights to the fore once more.
On 7 January at the Kongresshaus in Zurich, Abby Wambach and Pia Sundhage were honoured as the FIFA Women's Player of the Year and FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football respectively in a night that will live long in the memory. You can relive the evening with all our exclusive interviews, videos and photo galleries by clicking on the link to the right.
Yet the world of football never stops and in January there was plenty more action in the women's game. FIFA.com brings you the latest.
Promising start for Pellerud
With around six months to go before UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 kicks off in Sweden, the Norwegian team has been stealing the headlines. The 1995 world champions came out on top at a four-team tournament in China PR, following victories over Korea Republic (2-0), the hosts (1-0) and a goalless draw against Canada. It was the first true acid test for the Norwegians - currently 12th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking- since Even Pellerud's return as coach. The icing on the cake was team captain Marit Fiane Christensen winning the Player of the Tournament honour.
Bajramaj hopes for comeback
After suffering cruciate ligament damage last year, 59-time Germany international Fatmire Bajramaj has not yet given up hope of participating at EURO 2013. The 24-year-old was injured in FFC Frankfurt's 2-1 win over her former club Turbine Potsdam in a top-of-the-table Bundesliga match on 30 September. However, the striker told the German Football Association (DFB) website: "My aim is definitely to be there. Right now things are looking good that I'll be fit by then."
Spain on course
Spain continued their improved recent form with a 2-1 friendly victory over Russia near Murcia. Jennifer Hermoso grabbed the injury-time winner for Ignacio Quereda's side after Elena Morozova had cancelled out Veronica Boquete’s opener for the hosts. The teams will meet again at EURO 2013 in a mouthwatering Group C alongside England and France.
New faces in France
As with their male counterparts, the transfer window has been a hive of activity in women's football in the last few weeks. In France in particular the leading clubs secured several top-class signings. Along with USA international and Olympic gold medallist Megan Rapinoe, Japanese world champion Shinobu Ohno will be playing for UEFA Champions League winners Olympique Lyon from now on. Rapinoe's compatriot Tobin Heath will be lacing up her boots for Paris Saint-Germain, while French international defender Laure Lepailleur and Ukraine goalkeeper Irina Zvarych have joined FCF Juvisy Essonne.
England, Germany and Sweden saw an influx of stars too. Chelsea LFC brought in the attacking talents of Swedish striker Sofia Jakobsson, while Frankfurt signed up Japan’s Kozue Ando, Australia’s Tameka Butt and Denmark’s Lise Overgaard Munk. In Sweden, Umea IK secured the services of 35-year-old Iceland captain Katrin Jonsdottir.
New US league takes shape
The new National Women’s Soccer League in the USA announced the distribution of 55 internationals from USA, Canada and Mexico among the eight participating clubs ahead of the inaugural season kick-off in spring. Portland Thorns FC will consider themselves luckier than most after being allocated forwards Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Abby Wambach will play for Western New York Flash, while Hope Solo will be between the sticks at Seattle Reign FC. You can find the full squad listings for each team on the US Football Federation website by clicking the link to the right.
In January a FIFA Women’s Football Development course was held in Israel. 40 coaches from across the country gathered for the seminar with Spanish FIFA Instructor Marta Tejedor, a former coach of Chile. Elsewhere, girls’ festivals were held on the British Virgin Islands.
12 - Number of teams that will once again participate at this year’s prestigious Algarve Cup (from 6 - 13 March) in Portugal. The top three sides in the world will all be there, with world champions Japan and Olympic champions USA competing alongside last year’s winners Germany. The three groups of four teams were drawn as follows:
“I’m really happy and proud for everything I’ve achieved so far in my career. It’s definitely a pleasure and an honour to be able to inspire people to follow my example and reach for what they really love in their lives. I’m really happy if I can somehow be a role model for girls who look to become professional footballers.” Brazil international Marta in interview with FIFA.com about the FIFA Live your Goals campaign.