2012 was the very much USA’s year in women’s football, with success at the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup Japan 2012 coming hot on the heels of Olympic gold. At club level, Lyon swept all before them, while in Sweden a thrilling title race went down to the wire.
FIFA.com looks back on all the year’s action from the women’s game in 2012.
A golden year for USA
Just over a year after losing the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, USA exacted a measure of revenge against Japan in a repeat of that showdown at London 2012. A brace from Carli Lloyd helped the defending champions secure a third consecutive Olympic gold with a 2-1 victory. Meanwhile, Canada raised a few eyebrows with their performances in London, taking bronze barely a year after their disappointing group stage exit at Germany 2011. Coach John Herdman’s charges got the better of France in the bronze medal match, whetting their appetite for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 on home soil.
Change of coach
Approximately three weeks after USA’s Olympic triumph, coach Pia Sundhage announced she would be stepping down. In her five years at the helm, the 52-year-old led the side to back-to-back Olympic gold medals as well as three Algarve Cup titles. The Swede, who took charge of the national team in her homeland in December, will be replaced by Tom Sermanni. The 58-year-old Scot will pick up the reins on 1 January having recently guided Australia to consecutive quarter-final showings at the past two FIFA Women’s World Cups.
Germany shine in the Algarve
The Women’s Olympic Football Tournament took place without German representation for the first time ever this year. Nevertheless, coach Silvia Neid’s side still managed to add to their trophy collection with a 4-3 victory over Japan in the Algarve Cup final. The triumph, their second there since 2006, went some way to ease the pain of the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-final defeat against Japan on home turf in 2011. Next year’s Algarve Cup, which will take place between 6-13 March, already promises to be a thriller. Alongside Olympic champions USA and world champions Japan, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, China PR and Iceland will travel to Portugal looking to wrest the crown from the current title-holders.
After USA’s success at London 2012, the U-20 team followed in the footsteps of their senior counterparts with victory at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012, narrowly beating defending champions Germany 1-0 in the final. Meanwhile, France ended the Asian dominance at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup by taking the title in Azerbaijan. Les Bleuettes, who came through a tough group including heavyweights USA and Korea DPR, got the better of the latter in a penalty shoot-out in the final. France’s triumph means the trophy leaves Asia, after Korea DPR won the inaugural tournament in 2008, before Korea Republic reigned supreme two years later.
Retirements and U-turns
Two players stepped down from international duty with Germany in 2012. Both Inka Grings and Martina Muller decided to call it a day after 16 and 12 years respectively in the national set-up. Grings hit 64 goals in 96 appearances for her country and was part of the European championship winning sides in 2005 and 2009. Muller, a two-time world and European champion, earned 101 caps. Elsewhere, Solveig Gulbrandsen, who hung up her boots on the back of a successful season with Stabaek in 2010, found her way back into the Norway squad in 2012. After a two-year absence, not only did she feature in the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 qualifying matches against Belgium and Iceland, she also helped club side Valarenga maintain their top-flight status in her homeland.
Thrilling finale in Sweden
The Swedish Damallsvenskan could hardly have hoped for a more dramatic finale this year. Malmo had a title hat-trick firmly in their sights right up until the final minutes of the campaign, only to be overtaken by a Tyreso side inspired by Brazilian star Marta. Malmo had a three point lead going into the duo’s final day head-to-head encounter, where a draw would have been enough for them to seal a third consecutive championship. The match remained goalless until the 82nd minute, when Madelaine Edlund struck. The goal not only ended Malmo’s hopes of successfully defending their crown, but also gave Tyreso a first ever title thanks to their superior goal difference. To make matters worse, German international Anja Mittag was left ruing what might have been after missing a 14th minute penalty for Malmo.
Lyon raise the bar
2012 was another hugely successful year for Lyon, who added three titles to their trophy cabinet. Coach Patrice Lair’s charges stormed to success in the domestic championship with an incredible goal difference of 119 for and just three against. Lyon also won a second successive UEFA Women’s Champions League title thanks to a 2-0 victory over FFC Frankfurt in the Munich final in May, played out in front of a 50,000-strong crowd. It capped off a fine season, with the French Cup having already been secured.
New women’s league in Ghana
Women’s football in Ghana took a huge step forward in mid-December with the start of the inaugural season of the National Women’s League. Its introduction represents a new chapter for both the women’s game and the Ghanaian Football Association, who were supported by FIFA and CAF in their efforts to bring the league into fruition. 12 sides are competing for the championship, with the teams divided into north-south geographical zones.
Old friends and new faces
The FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala kicked off 2012, with the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year honours being presented at the Zurich Kongresshaus, along with the awards for their male counterparts. Homare Sawa, Abby Wambach and Marta were shortlisted, while Bruno Bini, Norio Sasaki and Pia Sundhage were in the running for the coach’s accolade. In the end there was a double victory for Japan, with Sawa and Sasaki receiving their awards to deafening applause. In December the nominees for 2012 were announced. Alex Morgan joined Marta and Abby Wambach in the top three, while the same coaching trio are in contention this time around too.
Former Germany stars Birgit Prinz and Steffi Jones were given a special honour in April. In recognition of their sporting achievements and services to the game, the pair were named as FIFA ambassadors for women’s football.
Women’s football was once again at the forefront of FIFA’s activities in 2012. Over 30 projects were started, with the objective of promoting women’s leagues around the world. More than 8,000 girls took part in FIFA’s Live Your Goals Festivals, which were held in Azerbaijan, Japan, Costa Rica and Republic of Ireland. The initiative aims to use the popularity of FIFA women’s tournaments to motivate girls and young women to get involved in the game. Furthermore, 2,030 coaches participated in at least one of 58 women’s football courses organised by world football’s governing body.
180 - Number of development projects in women’s football, from which over 100 member associations are benefitting.
“I was lucky enough to play at two European Championships. They were my tournaments, where I won everything. I thought, ‘if not now, then when is the best time to make a clean break from the national team?’” Germany striker Inka Grings on her retirement from international football.
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