October was highlighted by a highly successful staging of the first women’s FIFA tournament to be held in west Asia – the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. And though the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea now looms, it certainly proved to be a busy past month. There was a significant amount of international action, headlined by a memorable achievement for Portugal, as well as a busy domestic league calendar.
*International football *
*New frontier, old adversaries
*The 2017 edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan will live long in the memory not just for its historic nature, but also for the quality of its football. The finale saw two familiar faces match-up, with Korea DPR edging holders Japan on penalties to win for the first time since claiming the maiden edition of the tournament eight years ago. Among many individual highlights, Venezuela star Deyna Castellanos was in spectacular form as was the case two years ago in Costa Rica and she secured Goal of the Tournament with an outrageous winner from halfway.
The tournament was, of course, also a chance to help focus on societal change with Samar Nassar, CEO of the Local Organising Committee, saying that the competition's players were "not just kicking the ball for themselves or their countries, but for all girls out there - for women’s empowerment and for promoting gender equality.”
*Portuguese ecstasy, Romanian agony
*An 18-month UEFA Women’s EURO qualifying campaign - one that involved a record 46 nations - remained in the balance until the very last minute. Ultimately it concluded with a breakthrough moment for Portuguese women’s football as the national team secured qualification to their maiden major international tournament. Portugal and Romania were unable to find a goal during 180 minutes, forcing the EURO play-off into a tense period of extra time. Andreia Norton marked a sensational start to her international career with what proved to be the pivotal goal, and even though Laura Rus pulled scores level for Romania it was Portugal who progressed on away goals. A Romania women's international record crowd of 7,000 in Cluj had hoped to witness history, with the home side also looking for passage to their first continental tournament.
Meanwhile, France and England will join hosts the Netherlands and holders Germany as seeded teams for next week’s draw. Newly expanded to 16 teams, the tournament will be held in seven venues between 16 July – 6 August 2017.
*Cyprus field confirmed *
With no major global tournaments scheduled for next year, the spotlight will turn to other events such as the Cyprus Women’s Cup. An intriguing and diverse list of nations has been announced for the 2017 edition, including several participants from the recent Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. The line-up for the eight-day tournament is: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Switzerland.
*Club football *
*Changing of the guard
*There is a new name on the Copa do Brasil, and possibly a shift in power, after three-time Copa Libertadores Femenina champions Sao Jose were defeated 5-3 on aggregate by Audax in last week’s final. Among the scorers in the 3-1 second-leg victory was Chu Santos who finished top-scorer with 12 goals. Also on the scoresheet was Gabriela Nunes, who along with Yasmim, will represent Brazil at the fast-looming Papua New Guinea 2016. Audax, however, will have to wait a year for their shot at continental glory with the field already set for December’s Copa Libertadores
*Early pacemakers, silverware secured
*New campaigns are just beginning to gain momentum in much of Europe, while in other countries October was a time for end-of-season celebration. NTV Beleza won the Nadeshiko League to continue their recent domination in Japan, while Manchester City retained the FA WSL title. It was a different tale in Sweden as Linkopings ended a seven-year drought to secure the title with room to spare.
*Flash leave it late
*Across the Atlantic, the fourth season of the NWSL ended with incredible drama as Western New York Flash were crowned for the first time against an unlucky Washington Spirit. The Flash equalised for the second time four minutes into added time at the end of extra time, before their Canadian international goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo saved three penalties for a 3-2 shoot-out win. It was more heartbreak for Spirit, who had been edged out of top spot on the final day of the regular season, having led for much of the campaign. The championship decider concluded another strong season for the NWSL, one marked by the successful introduction of Orlando Pride - who drew a league record 23,403 crowd - while the competition saw its overall attendance average reach 5,558.
*Development *Republic of Ireland and Portugal continue to display their hunger to develop the women’s game with women’s football administrative courses held in the two nations during October. The primary aim of the courses is to help develop skills and provide opportunities for female administrators. “While great work has already taken place throughout the country, this two-day FIFA workshop provided committee members with knowledge and key skills to further develop the game in each of their areas,” said Sue Ronan, Republic of Ireland FA’s Head of Women's Football.
Elsewhere, Uruguay, host of the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, was the beneficiary of equipment distribution with the focus on development pathways. There were also coaching courses held in nations as diverse as Mauritania, Madagascar, Peru and Latvia – the latter continuing a particularly strong focus on developing women’s football.
The stat 49 – October proved to be quite a month for Lynn Williams. Less than a fortnight after scoring a crucial eleventh-hour equaliser that helped Western New York Flash become national champions, Williams enjoyed a stunning international debut. Williams scored just 49 seconds after entering the fray against Switzerland to set a new benchmark for the USA national team. A new-look Stars and Stripes secured impressive 5-1 and 4-0 victories over the Swiss.
*The quote *"It's going to be the most incredible W-League season, the international response and interest has been through the roof this year. Seeing so many international players coming to Australia to play in the W-League not only boosts the brand of the game, but also the quality of the competition.” *Sydney FC striker Kyah Simon speaking ahead of the new season of Australia’s W-League, which commences this weekend. *