July proved to be a massive month for women’s football, headlined of course by the colourful goal-laden finale to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. So too, there was plenty of action elsewhere both internationally and at club level, with the momentum built during Canada 2015 reflected in greater interest across the globe. FIFA.com reviews all the action from what has been a hectic period.
Stars and Stripes light up the big stage
The month, of course, commenced with all interest on Canada as the final four got down to business. While three familiar names were among the semi-finalists, England enjoyed a breakthrough tournament reaching new heights for the first time, before eventually settling for third with an extra-time win over Germany. That left USA and holders Japan to do battle in the decider, thus reprising their match-up from Germany 2011 and the London 2012 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. Japan had only conceded three goals in six matches, yet somehow USA raced to a barely believable 4-0 advantage inside 16 minutes. Midfielder Carli Lloyd, playing in a more advanced role than normal, proved to be the shining star nabbing a 13-minute hat-trick as the Stars and Stripes eventually prevailed 5-2 for their third world title. After playing to a full stadium in Vancouver, the US players returned home to a hero's welcome which included a ticker tape parade through the streets of New York; the first women’s sporting team to be honoured in such a way.
Brazil rebound with gold
The Pan American Games commenced within days of the Vancouver finale to the Women’s World Cup, albeit on the other side of Canada. Hamilton played host to teams from across the Americas, where the opportunity to carry momentum from Canada 2015 was on offer. A near full-strength Brazil – star forward Marta aside – bounced back to form following their disappointing Round of 16 exit last month, collecting the gold medal with a 4-0 win over Colombia. The rapidly developing Colombians won through to their maiden final with a semi-final victory over hosts Canada who, aside from two exceptions, fielded a U-23 side.
PNG retain crown
Meanwhile there was similar glory on offer for Oceania nations with Papua New Guinea hosting the fourth edition of the women’s competition in the Pacific Games. Seven nations took part with the hosts coming out on top thanks to a tight 1-0 win in the decider against New Caledonia, securing not only regional bragging rights, but also a berth in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 playoff against New Zealand later this year.
Elsewhere in Rio 2016 qualifying, the Netherlands was confirmed as the venue next March when four nations – Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the hosts - will battle for a remaining UEFA ticket to Brazil. Meanwhile, the third stage of qualifying is currently underway in Africa where the two participants are set to be determined in October.
Big names exit the big stage
A string of headline-name players have announced their retirements since the conclusion of Canada 2015, with a similar number of big names set for a spell on the sideline through injury. Headlining the list of retirees is Germany’s prolific striker Celia Sasic who, despite collecting the adidas Golden Boot for her six goals in Canada, has exited the game aged just 27. Among others to hang up the boots are USA’s Women’s World Cup-winning midfield pair Lauren Holiday and Shannon Boxx, though both are expected to be given farewell games in national teams colours later in the year.
Meanwhile, injuries have also taken their toll amid the US ranks. Most notably Sydney Leroux will be out for up to three months with an ankle injury, while Canada 2015 adidas Golden Glove winner Hope Solo and striker Alex Morgan will also miss a chunk of the domestic season. Across the Atlantic Ocean, England midfield dynamo Fara Williams and her Liverpool team-mate - Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala - will miss the next two months with hamstring and knee problems respectively.
Records tumble on and off the field in Israel
Sweden and their prolific forward Stina Blackstenius took all the honours in the UEFA U-19 Women's Championship. Sweden collected their second crown with a 3-1 defeat of Spain in the Israel-based tournament. Leading the way was the Linkoping forward who struck six goals in four outings tallying a record 20 goals in ten games over the course of the campaign. The final was notable for a crowd of 7,230 in Netanya, a record for the final in the competition. Both Sweden and Spain, plus Germany and France, all qualified for next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. There was better news earlier in the month for Spain who took out the UEFA U-17 Women's Championship for the third time with a comprehensive 5-2 win over Switzerland in Iceland.
Action in domestic football resumed in numerous countries after Canada 2015 with many enjoying a boost in interest levels, including in England and Japan. Most notable though were attendance figures in USA where a record 21,000 crowd turned out in Portland to see the Thorns entertain local rivals Seattle Reign, while there were also sell-out crowds in several other venues.
It was another significant month in development news headlined by the quadrennial symposium held in conjunction with the Women’s World Cup, where hundreds of representatives from the 209 Member Associations gathered to explore the opportunities for growth in women’s football and the role of women in the game. Meanwhile, there were girls festivals in American Samoa, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, Haiti and Ethiopia, while women’s football courses were conducted in Burkina Faso and Grenada.
7 – USA and Houston Dash midfielder Carli Lloyd not only commenced the month in unforgettable form, but she ended it in equally majestic style. The Canada 2015 adidas Golden Ball winner has now scored in seven successive matches for club and country. Not content with being the first female to score a hat-trick in a Women’s World Cup Final, Lloyd returned to her NWSL side and bagged goals in three consecutive games. The run looked like coming to an end on Wednesday, but Lloyd thumped home a winner from 30 metres with a just few minutes left on the clock in yet another example of the rare form currently enjoyed by the New Jersey native.
"It's like playing against a team with Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in it," Spain coach Jorge Vilda referring to Sweden starlet Stina Blackstenius