Another busy year looms for women’s football, with January laying the platform for the 12 months ahead. Reigning Olympic champions USA, along with Canada, are the latest nations to secure passage to London 2012, while the path to continental success has commenced in Africa.
FIFA.com’s monthly review also takes in the latest club news from Japan, USA and Australia, while January saw yet another milestone for prolific USA striker Abby Wambach.
National teams *Familiar North American faces
*Three-time defending gold medalists USA, along with neighbours Canada, will represent CONCACAF at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. The Stars and Stripes overcame a determined Costa Rica, while the Canadians ended the hopes of 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup™ participants Mexico in front of a record crowd in Vancouver. USA dominated the final in winning 4-0 against Canada thanks to pair of goals and assists from Alex Morgan, and a double from Abby Wambach. London 2012 will be Canada’s second consecutive appearance, while the US have appeared in the Olympic women’s final on all four occasions.
*Africans begin road to continental glory
*Qualification for the CAF African Women’s Championship has commenced with few surprises. Four teams - Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and South Africa – enjoyed a bye for the preliminary round before joining qualifying during the next stage, scheduled for May and June. Ghana, who have participated in all seven previous editions of the biennial championship, were among the bigger names in action. The Black Queens had little trouble overcoming west Africa neighbours Mali 8-0 on aggregate, with Safia Abdul Rahman scoring twice in the second leg to ensure a meeting with Cameroon. Meanwhile, Ethiopia - spurred on by a capacity Addis Ababa crowd - scored four unanswered goals in the second leg for an impressive 6-4 aggregate win against Egypt. The 2012 tournament will be held in Equatorial Guinea next November.
*New face at Swiss helm
*German Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is the new Switzerland coach, having filled the void left by the departure of Beatrice von Siebenthal, who resigned at the end of last year. Voss-Tecklenburg, who has enjoyed an impressive playing career, winning four UEFA European Women's Championships, takes the Swiss reins after departing FF USV Jena, having previously led FCR 2001 Duisburg to UEFA Women's Cup glory in 2009. After reaching the play-offs for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Switzerland have a tough challenge ahead if they are to qualify for the 2013 UEFA Women’s EURO, having earned just six points from their four matches to date.
*Club football *
*WPS shelves 2012 season
*After three seasons of operation, Women's Professional Soccer announced that it will suspend the 2012 season. Only five clubs - Atlanta Beat, Boston Breakers, Philadelphia Independence, Sky Blue FC and Western New York Flash – were scheduled to take part in the coming season following the departure of the Florida-based magicJack. The league is set to resume in 2013.
*More glory for Sawa & Co *
Having narrowly sealed the league title in November, INAC Leonessa comfortably claimed the 33rd All Japan Women's Football Championship. Homare Sawa's side retained their cup crown with a comfortable 3-0 win over Albirex Niigata in the final. Despite a modest league campaign, Albirex upset league runners-up NTV Beleza in the semi-final.
*On the back of last year’s successful FIFA Women’s World Cup, Europe’s biggest club match is now bound for Germany. Munich’s Olympiastadion, venue for the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final, will play host to this year’s UEFA Women's Champions League decider. The match will be played on 17 May in the same city as the men’s equivalent. The tournament resumes next month at the quarter–final stage with two German sides still in the running to reach the Munich final: FFC Frankfurt and FFC Turbine Potsdam.
*A new name is on the W-League trophy after Canberra United won the Australian championship, having gone through the 12-match campaign undefeated. The team from the nation’s capital, under the tutelage of debutant Czech coach Jitka Klimkova, defeated Brisbane Roar 3-2 in front of a capacity crowd to claim their crown. Striker Michelle Heyman was in unstoppable form scoring a record 15 goals, including two in the final.
*Development *Some of the greats of CONCACAF women’s football were in attendance last week as Vancouver hosted the FIFA/CONCACAF Conference on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011. The third in a series of FIFA conferences, following on from those already conducted in Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur, proved highly successful and was aimed at passing on the expertise acquired at Germany 2011. Representatives from world champions Japan shared their ideas and vision for future success. Just some of their other high profile attendees were France coach Bruno Bini, 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning coach Even Pellerud and USA’s former champion April Heinrichs.
Meanwhile, Member Associations are set to be the beneficiaries, with 11 FIFA women’s football development programmes available for the period 2012-2015. On offer is multifaceted support ranging from expertise, teaching and promotional material to football equipment and financial assistance. *(For more information, refer to the FIFA Women’s Development Programmes Guidelines 2012-2015 in the right-hand column.) *
*The stat 131 *- The number of international goals scored by 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominee Abby Wambach, following her double for USA against Canada in the final of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for London 2012. The brace pushed Wambach above fellow American Kristine Lilly (130), but well behind legendary compatriot Mia Hamm who tallied 158 international goals. Canada’s Christine Sinclair also started the match on 129 goals but was unable to add to her tally in the final.
*The quote *
“We need club competitions at the highest level, such as the UEFA Women's Champions League, to further develop the women's game around Europe.” Steffi Jones, UEFA Women's Champions League ambassador