Women’s round-up: April 2013

FIFA.com runs the rule over an action-packed month of women's football, in which powerhouses Germany and USA laid on a goal fest, new ground was broken with the start of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and VfL Wolfsburg and Olympique Lyon reached the Champions League final. 

National teams
Meeting of equals
As part of the centenary celebrations of the U.S. Soccer Federation, two giants of the women's game - USA and Germany - locked horns again just three weeks after the Algarve Cup final. In front of a 16,090 crowd in Offenbach, the sides put on a show worthy of the occasion, ultimately drawing 3-3. The Olympic champions went 2-0 up in the second half through strikes from FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe. After Kim Kulig had reduced the deficit, Alex Morgan restored the Stars and Stripes’ two-goal lead, only for late efforts from Celia Okoyino da Mbabi and substitute Anja Mittag to salvage the draw for Silvia Neid’s team.

USA rounded off their European mini-tour four days later with a comfortable 3-1 win over the Netherlands in Den Haag. Prior to the start of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 in Sweden, Germany will play further warm-up matches against Scotland (15 June), Canada (19 June) and world champions Japan (29 June).

Sweden surge under Sundhage
Sweden are gaining momentum in their preparations for the forthcoming European championships on home soil. Under the guidance of FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football Pia Sundhage, the side emerged 2-0 victors from a hard-fought friendly against Iceland. A second half brace from Lotta Schelin ensured Sweden took the honours, although it was not until injury time that they broke down Iceland’s stubborn resistance for the decisive second. Ahead of their first group game against Denmark at this summer‘s continental showdown, the Blagult have lined up a further friendly against a Norway side that recently lost 3-1 in Nyon to a Swiss outfit that failed to qualify for the European championship.

FIFA World Cup qualifying gathers pace
While the spotlight is turning towards Sweden 2013 in Europe, qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ is also already underway. Preliminary qualification tournaments took place in Lithuania and Malta between 4-9 April, with the latter reaching the group qualifying phase proper along with Montenegro, the Faroe Islands and Albania. On 16 April the 42 participating European countries found out who they will face in the search for one of the continent’s coveted eight tickets to Canada 2015. Two-time world champions Germany were drawn against Russia among others in Group 1, France will grapple with Finland in Group 7, and Italy and Spain meet in Group 2. Elsewhere, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden will jostle for supremacy, while Norway must pit their wits against Scotland and the Netherlands. England will go up against Ukraine, Wales and newcomers Montenegro among others.

Club football
Dawn of a new era
On 13 April the long-awaited National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) got the ball rolling on its maiden season. Eight teams, ranging from Seattle and Portland in the west to Washington, New Jersey and Boston in the east, ushered in the start of a new footballing era. Following the collapses of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), the NWSL is the third attempt to establish a professional women’s league in the USA. Three games into the fledging campaign, Portland Thorns - who boast Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan in their ranks - and Sky Blue FC lead the way in the league table.

Wolfsburg and Lyon to contest final
The UEFA Women’s Champions League final will once again have a German-French flavour this year. After Turbine Potsdam (twice) and FFC Frankfurt, it is now VfL Wolfsburg’s turn to test themselves against Olympique Lyon. The Wolves beat Arsenal LFC 2-0 away in their semi-final first leg and followed that up with a 2-1 triumph in the return fixture. Lyon brushed FCF Juvisy aside 3-0 and 6-1 and now have a fourth consecutive European title in their sights. In the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg were forced to postpone their championship celebrations after a 2-0 defeat to FFC Frankfurt meant they were unable to lift the trophy three games before the season’s end. By contrast, Lyon have already wrapped up the French league title.

New seasons in Sweden, England and Norway
Matters may have already been settled in France, with proceedings drawing to a close in Spain and Germany too, but elsewhere in Europe the football season is just getting going. Marta and Tyreso FF could not have scripted a better start to the Swedish Damallsvenskan, winning all three of their opening games. The domestic campaigns also kicked off in Norway and England. Chelsea Ladies sit atop the WSL after two matchdays, while Stabaek are already in the driving seat in Norway’s Toppserien following the third round of fixtures.

Development
In Costa Rica, hosts of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2014, fans of the women’s game were given a foretaste of a FIFA World Cup atmosphere. Mexico, Japan and USA arrived in the country for an international U-17 tournament from 24-28 April. The event not only helped the respective nations keep ticking over for their continental qualifying competitions, it also served to heighten the anticipation ahead of next year’s global showdown. 3,000 fans poured into the Estadio Nacional in San Jose for the opening encounters and cheered the teams on by singing and dancing in the stands. Although the hosts failed to win any of their games, the enthusiastic support showed that women’s football is on the right track in the country and that next year’s tournament promises to be a colourful occasion.

The stat
7
- Olympique Lyon’s 7-0 victory over Vendenheim FC secured the club their seventh successive league title. The unique achievement means Lyon are now the most decorated club in French women’s football history. FCF Juvisy are not far behind though, having won the league six times.

What they said
“I’m sure we can pick up a few points. If we managed to beat Ukraine last October in qualifying for the U-17 European championships, then why not now own home soil? We play our last game at home to England on 17 September 2014 and I hope there will be a kind of festival in Montenegro after the qualifying campaign. You shouldn’t forget that football is one of the few sports where David can beat Goliath.” Montenegro coach Zoran Mijovic tells FIFA.com what he thinks of his side’s chances in Canada 2015 qualifying.