It is hard to imagine a bigger week of international women’s football than that which has played out over the past seven days or so. Aside from Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 qualifiers in both Asia and Europe, there were several major international tournaments with all bar one of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking top-20 involved in tournament action.
Headlining was the USA-based SheBelieves Cup featuring four of the top-five teams in the world. Also concluding on Wednesday was the prestigious Algarve Cup, as well as the Cyprus Cup. FIFA.com wraps up the action from the past week in which there was silverware for USA, Canada and Austria.
*USA hold sway among all-star quartet *Rarely has such a concentration of Women’s Football talent been brought together for an event outside a global tournament. England, France and Germany visited USA for an all-star four-nation tournament across three venues in southeastern USA. And all six matches were duly tight and tense affairs. The first two matchdays saw two one-goal wins for USA and Germany. The closeness of the first four encounters was accentuated by the fact that the winner in each match was scored during the final 20 minutes. None were more tightly contested than USA’s win over France which needed an injury-time Alex Morgan winner to separate the teams.
The two best performing teams - USA and Germany - happened to be drawn together for the third and final matchday with the title up for grabs. Superstar goalscorers Anja Mittag and Morgan netted spectacular goals for their respective teams, but it was the unheralded Samantha Mewis who grabbed the winner for the home side before the half-time break.
*Canada shine on the Algarve *
The Portuguese-based Algarve Cup was reduced by four teams to eight this year in light of the various other competitions running parallel. Whatever the outcome, a new winner was assured with none of the field having won any of the previous 22 editions. Denmark were perhaps the most disappointing performer with only a single goal victory over Canada to shout about in the group stage, before they collected a hard-fought 3-1 win over hosts Portugal to secure seventh. At the other end of the scale, Iceland and Belgium continued their recent upward trajectory with impressive results to claim third and fifth respectively. Belgian Red Flames midfielder Janice Cayman was the tournament’s top-scorer with four goals, including a double in an impressive 5-0 play-off win over Russia. Iceland finished third with a shoot-out victory over New Zealand.
Canada and Brazil have built up quite a rivalry in recent times, so it was perhaps poignant that the pair met in the final of the esteemed tournament. And it was the Canucks who triumphed thanks to second-half goals from Shelina Zadorsky and Janine Beckie, before Brazil grabbed an eleventh-hour consolation. “We beat Brazil in the Pan Ams (Pan-American Games) in our run to London (2012), so hopefully this is a good omen,” said John Herdman with one eye on Rio 2016. Meanwhile, it keeps getting better for Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan with the Hyundai Young Player Award winner at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup™ this time taking home the Algarve Cup player of the tournament.
*Austria’s star continues to rise *
The Cyprus Cup was also an eight-team event, though it featured an all-European line-up. This year’s tournament provided a chance for several lesser lights to shine, a number of whom are eyeing a first-ever berth to next year's UEFA Women’s EURO. Chief among these are Austria who claimed what is arguably their greatest achievement in women’s football with a 2-1 win in the tournament final over Poland. Katharina Schiechtl scored a dramatic last-minute winner as Austria extended their unbeaten run to a remarkable 17 matches. Italy collected third place with a 3-1 win over Czech Republic, while Finland surprisingly disappointed to finish bottom.