The FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ took shape, Asia crowned its top female players and Marta found herself without a club as USA’s champions went to the wall. reflects on all this and more in reviewing a dramatic month in women’s football.

Club Football *Marta up for grabs as champions fold
*Less than two months after being crowned WPS champions, FC Gold Pride went out of business on 16 November, having failed to match their success on the field with investment off it. The Californian outfit are the third franchise to fold in the WPS’s short history, although those in charge of the US top flight have insisted that it will continue in 2011 with a reduced six-team format. A further consequence of Gold Pride’s demise is that the likes of Marta, Christine Sinclair, Ali Riley, Kelley O’Hara and Shannon Boxx find themselves among the most sought-after free agents in world football. With Ramona Bachmann, Cristiane and Natasha Kai also out of contract and on the hunt for new employers, it promises to be a busy close season.

*Champions League field narrows
*Fulham’s Craven Cottage has been named as the venue for this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final, and two English clubs remain in the running to compete in Europe’s showpiece fixture. The competition has now reached the quarter-final stage, with Arsenal having qualified to face Sweden’s Linkopings FC, Everton up against FCR 2001 Duisburg, and French duo Lyon and Juvisy Essonne set to take on Russians Zvezda-2005 and Germany’s FFC Turbine Potsdam respectively.

*In-form Frankfurt lead the way
*Having underachieved in recent seasons, FFC Frankfurt are once again leading from the front in the Frauen Bundesliga after following up a 4-1 win over champions and nearest challengers Turbine Potsdam with an 8-0 drubbing of SC 07 Bad Neuenhar. A key factor in the club’s resurgence has been the outstanding form of its contingent of German internationals, with Kersten Garefrekes particularly impressive for a free-scoring side that also includes the talents of Nadine Angerer, Birgit Prinz, Melanie Behringer, Sanra Smisek and rising star Dzsenifer Marozsan.

International Football *Germany 2011 takes shape
*November witnessed the final pieces of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ jigsaw fall into place as the last few berths were secured ahead of last night’s draw in Frankfurt. First to book their tickets were Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, with the former taking the African laurels following a 4-2 win in the final of CAF Women’s Championship. CONCACAF duo Canada and Mexico followed suit a couple of days later, the latter going down to a solitary Christine Sinclair goal in the final after upsetting USA in the last four. Brazil then took the South American title, qualifying alongside first-timers Colombia, this before the US gained a reprieve by edging out Italy in a tense play-off. The Americans’ reward was a place alongside Korea DPR, Colombia and Sweden in Group C, while the hosts will face up to Canada in the opening match before going up against France and Nigeria. Comprehensive coverage of the draw and all the final qualifying drama can be found by visiting our dedicated FIFA Women’s World Cup section and by clicking on the links to the right.

*Gill, Yeo reign in Asia
*Asia crowned its top performers of 2010 last week, with Australia’s Kate Gill taking the AFC Women’s Player of the Year award and Korea Republic U-17 star Yeo Min-Ji the youth equivalent. Gill, who described herself as “humbled” after receiving the honour, was rewarded for her outstanding form in the Matildas’ triumphant Asian Women’s Cup campaign, while Yeo earned recognition for her starring role in Korea Republic’s historic FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup triumph.

*Legends hang up the boots
*Two long-serving internationals, Norway’s Solveig Gulbrandsen and Denmark’s Cathrine Paaske Sorensen, have decided to retire after glittering careers at club and national team level. With over 150 caps and an Olympic gold medal in her CV, Norway playmaker Solveig Gulbrandsen went out on a high after helping club side Stabaek to a maiden title, while her final act at international level was to aid her country to Germany 2011. Paaske’s career record is similarly impressive with well over 100 caps and a remarkable seven league titles in three different countries. Four titles with Danish giants Brondby, were followed by three league crowns in 12 months at Sweden’s Linkopings, Australia’s Sydney FC and last month at home with Fortuna Hjorring.

*Development *The Middle East provided the focus for FIFA’s development work over the past month, with consultancies in Jordan and Iraq, a coaching course in Bahrain and a combined coaching/refereeing Futsal course in Kuwait. A visit was also paid to eastern Europe, with Belarus’s aspiring coaches benefiting from a course of their own.

The stat 122 – The record number of nations that set out to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011, a number now whittled down to a final 16. Only 45 were involved in the preliminary competition for the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, with the number of qualifying matches during that same period having risen from 110 to 355.

The quote *“There are six or seven teams that can win it and that’s unique. We haven’t had that since this tournament started way back in 1991,” *USA coach Pia Sundhage on next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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