It has been another action-packed month in women's football, with a fairy tale triumph in USA, a European showpiece in Finland and the emergence of a special talent in the Far East. As always, *FIFA.com *is on hand to wrap up all the main developments.
Club football *Sky Blue success
*Americans love a good underdog story and, thanks to Sky Blue FC, the debut season of the WPS didn't disappoint. Against all odds, Los Angeles Sol, who had clinched the regular season title with three weeks to spare, lost the play-off final to a team that had begun the WPS's inaugural season with just one win from their opening six matches. The New Jersey outfit's rise was all the more remarkable as they lost two coaches over the course of their campaign, and ended with Christie Rampone combining her responsibilities as player and captain with managing the team.
Sky Blue only just squeezed into the play-offs, but with Rampone, who just happens to be three months pregnant, in inspired form, they clinched the unlikeliest of final wins, with MVP Heather O'Reilly grabbing the only goal. Among the losing players was Marta, who nevertheless finished as WPS top scorer, while Rampone has been nominated for defender, coach and sportswoman of the year in Saturday's award ceremony.
*Ljungberg's last farewell
*While the success of the WPS has been a major boost for women's football, the female game suffered a blow earlier this month when Hanna Ljungberg, Sweden's all-time leading scorer, admitted defeat in her long battle against injuries. The 30-year-old, who had already called time on her international career, quit the game altogether after tearing the cruciate ligament in her right knee for the second time while in action for Umea.
*Lionesses lead the way
*In England, as with most European nations, club football has taken a back seat while the continent's top national teams do battle in Finland. However, while Everton, Chelsea and defending champions Arsenal have all had fixtures postponed due to their players' international commitments, newly-promoted Millwall have made the most of the chance to make the early running. With two games played, the Lionesses have a 100 per cent record and a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
National teams *All eyes on Finland
*Who can stop Germany? That is the question on everyone's lips after the reigning European champions began their quest for a fifth successive continental crown by putting four unanswered goals past Norway. England had been tipped as potential challengers, but after opening their campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Italy, Hope Powell's side will do well simply to escape a section that also includes Sweden and Russia. Although Denmark yesterday bounced back from opening day defeat to the hosts to edge out Ukraine, the Swedes look to be Germany's most likely rivals, having cruised to a 3-0 win over Russia on Tuesday.
*Iwabuchi inspires Young Nadeshiko
*The field for next year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup swelled by three earlier this month when Japan, Korea Republic and Korea DPR qualified for the global showpiece. All three excelled at the AFC U-19 Women's Championship, with Japan - 2-1 winners over Korea Republic in the final - proving popular champions. Always easy on the eye, the Young Nadeshiko possess a genuine star-in-the-making in the prodigious Mana Iwabuchi, and it was fitting that the tournament's outstanding player should score the final's decisive goal just three minutes from time.
*Development *With six courses and one seminar taking places across five continents, it has been another busy and successful month for FIFA's Development team. Coaches in Mongolia, Fiji and Thailand were all helped through their first steps, while a more advanced course took place in Czech Republic at the same time as Trinidad and Tobago was staging a COM-Unity seminar aimed at promoting its hosting of the 2011 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. Not content with that, from Monday FIFA will also be putting aspiring female referees in Botswana through a basic level course ahead of a series of ‘Girls Festivals' in Gaborone during September.
The number 16 - the age at which Mana Iwabuchi picked up the latest accolade of what seems certain to be a stellar career. The Japanese playmaker's exhilarating performances last year earned her the adidas Golden Ball at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and the title of AFC Women's Youth Player of the Year. Much was expected, therefore, when she travelled to China for the AFC U-19 Women's Championship, and she more than lived up to expectations, earning an uncontested MVP award thanks to a series of scintillating showings.
The quote *"You never wish to go through as many ups and downs as we went through this season, but I think in the end it's been character building. The fibres of this team are so close and so tight that nothing was going to break us," *Sky Blues striker Heather O'Really reflects on a topsy-turvy season after her WPS title-winning strike.