Stability the key to lasting success
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The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 has reached the semi-final stage, providing an opportunity to take stock of the tournament so far. With that objective in mind, sought the opinion of Sylvie Beliveau, a member of FIFA’s Technical Study Group and Marika Domanski Lyfors, a member of the Trinidad and Tobago 2010 Organising Committee.

The first conclusion to be drawn from semi-final line-up, with Spain taking on Korea Republic and Korea DPR facing Japan is an obvious one. “The Asian teams have shown how strong they are and they are extremely competitive,” commented Beliveau. “They have a very well-structured plan from the grassroots level up, and it’s bearing fruit for them. European sides have also done well,” she continued. “You can tell that teams have been investing in women’s football because the results are there for all to see. In a World Cup competition you can see the rewards of your everyday work. You can’t expect to get great results if you don’t have a stable programme in place at home.”

The aerial game is one aspect where improvements can still be made.
Marila Domanski Lyfors

Both experts are agreed that it is difficult to make comparisons between this tournament and the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, held in New Zealand two years ago, especially with seven teams making their tournament debuts in Trinidad and Tobago.

That said, they both detected aspects that still need to be worked on. “There is still room for improvement in the level of goalkeeping in women’s football,” said Beliveau. “The standard was very good in 2003, but it dropped in 2007 and it needs to be raised again. Goalkeepers need more support and more specific training plans. “The aerial game is one aspect where improvements can still be made,” added Domanski Lyfors. “I don’t think it’s a question of technique, though. To my mind the players just need to be a bit braver and challenge for the ball a bit more in those situations.”

Advice for the future
In their desire for the women’s game to continue progressing around the world, both observers had some intelligent advice to give. “Countries that don’t have a national league need to organise activities around the national team so that their players are given regular opportunities to compete,” commented Beliveau, who hails from Canada. “Obviously, though, work needs to be done to create more leagues and strengthen existing ones. Players have to be able to move around the world more to make the necessary increase in quality possible.”

As for Domanski Lyfors, she had this to say about raising standards worldwide: “We have to ensure that the people involved in women’s football keep specialising. We have to keep improving that aspect, starting with the training that the coaches of women’s teams receive."

There is still a huge difference with the boys, who already have professional contracts by the time they reach this age. The girls are still amateurs and I hope we can carry on making investments so that the game can get stronger in the years to come,” explained Sylvie, emphasising the importance of making women’s football a more professional concern.

The differences between the men’s and women’s games also have a major bearing on the identity of national teams, as our two experts point out. Whereas in men’s football the style of play employed by the full national team is generally adopted by teams further down the age scale, such an approach does not always guarantee success for the women. “Players obviously feel more comfortable adopting the system they have always used, but I’m not sure it’s something that works in every case,” said Beliveau. “I think you first of all have to assess the skills and talent of the players at your disposal and then get them to play a certain way.”

“I think the way you play as a national team is determined to an extent by the culture of your country,” commented Domanski Lyfors. “Brazilian players play to a different rhythm and have different technique to Swedish players. My philosophy is this: choose your best players and create your style of play in accordance with that.”

Rounding off their thoughts on Trinidad and Tobago 2010, both experts expressed their admiration for both the nation’s football fans and the players who have entertained them over the last fortnight. “The support of the local fans has been incredible,” said a suitably impressed Beliveau. “I hope the people keep giving their support to the players.”

“I’m amazed by the talent of these girls,” added Domanski by way of conclusion. “They’re only U-17s but there’s no question they are the players of the future.”