April was yet another busy month with numerous FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ qualifiers in Europe, while elsewhere across the globe there was a host of coaching changes. Japan added the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup to their rapidly expanding list of achievements, while Jordan also claimed regional gold. On the club front, new seasons commenced in England and USA, while a European classic looms on the horizon during May. Join FIFA.com for its regular whistle-stop tour of the month in women’s football.
*National teams *
*Cream rising to the top in Europe’s Canada race
*Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and England have all moved a step closer to Canada 2015 qualification, while group rivals Sweden and Scotland, and France and Finland have continued to maintain perfect records. Notably, Germany’s 16-year unbeaten run in qualifiers was under threat in Dublin only for Melanie Leupolz to net an eleventh-hour winner as the European champs secured a 3-2 comeback victory. Switzerland are in sight of maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification following their 1-1 draw against Denmark, with the Danes struggling to stay in the hunt.
Jordan retain regional crown ** **Jordan have prepared for their upcoming tilt at Canada 2015 qualification by easing to the WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) Women's Championship title. For the third time Jordan topped the four-team tournament - which this year also featured Palestine, Bahrain and Qatar – winning all three games and scoring 22 goals without conceding.
*Big statement from Little Nadeshiko
*Japan stormed to their maiden FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup title winning all six matches at Costa Rica 2014 conceding just one goal in the process. The Little Nadeshiko defeated Spain in the final, while there were also new highs for bronze-medallists Italy and fourth-placed Venezuela.
*Coaching carousel *
It was a busy month amid the international coaching fraternity with USA, Australia and Brazil all making changes. Tom Sermanni exited the Stars and Stripes hot-seat while in an ironic twist, his former national team, Australia, dispensed with the services of Dutch coach Hesterine de Reus. Brazil have named Oswaldo Alvarez (better known as Vadão) as the coach they hope will lead them to Canada 2015 glory. Meanwhile, new England coach Mark Sampson made his competitive debut with a hefty 9-0 win over Montenegro to move closer to their Canada 2015 qualification goal.
Club football *Second season underway Stateside
*After a bright debut campaign in 2013, the second season of the National Women’s Soccer League is underway with the addition of Houston Dash bringing the number of teams to nine. Once again USA, Canada and Mexico national team players are spread across the clubs. Seattle Reign have made a perfect start with three wins from as many outings, while last year’s table-toppers Kansas City have yet to record a victory from three matches.
*Euro classic in store
*Reigning European queens Wolfsburg and high-profile Swedish club Tyreso are set to meet in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final next month in Lisbon, two days before the men’s equivalent. The pair won through with powerhouse wins on the weekend over Turbine Potsdam and Birmingham City respectively. While the Lower Saxony club will be looking to retain the title they won last year in London, the Swedes will be aiming to break a seven-year German and French domination of Europe’s premier club competition.
*A time for recognition
*The English Super League season commenced this month with a new-look two division competition, and Manchester City featuring in the top flight for the first time. However, it was mostly performances during 2013 that earned Liverpool and England defender Lucy Bronze the Professional Footballers' Association's female player of the year award. Scotland’s former Arsenal striker Kim Little was the maiden recipient last year. Meanwhile in Australia, Wales captain Jess Fishlock claimed the Player’s Player of the Year for her role in helping Melbourne Victory to a maiden W-League crown. Brisbane Roar’s Tameka Butt was named the competition’s best, while Portland Thorns-bound Steph Catley collected the Young Player of the Year.
*Barcelona continue reign in Spain
*Barcelona underlined their status as the new force in Spanish women’s football with their third successive title, just six years after winning promotion to the top flight. The Catalans claimed the crown with six rounds to spare, having not suffered a single loss although they have since slipped to their first league defeat.
*The stat 100 *– Last Sunday (27 April) marked 100 days until the 16-nation 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup commences in Canada.
The quote *“I believe the (USA) squad has individually, collectively and tactically made good progress over the past 16 months. It now has greater depth and competition for places than ever before, in every position.” *Tom Sermanni following his exit as USA coach.