In our latest monthly review of the big events in women’s football, FIFA.com reflects on qualifying action in Europe and South America, a scare for USA, and another move for Marta.
*Germans cruise, Northern Irish surprise
*Germany’s recovery from last year’s disappointing FIFA Women’s World Cup™ showing continued earlier this month as they chalked up a convincing 5-0 win away to Turkey in their latest UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 qualifier. Melanie Behringer grabbed a brace, while Linda Bresonik and rising stars Dzenifer Marozsan and Celia Okoyino da Mbabi also found the target as the Germans extended their goal difference advantage on Spain, who also remain unbeaten on 13 points. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland continue to prove one of the qualifiers’ surprise packages. Having pulled off a sensational 3-1 win over former world champions Norway earlier in the competition, they drew 2-2 away to Belgium in their most recent fixture, keeping hopes alive of an unlikely slot at Sweden 2013.
*Qualifiers, new host for U-20 finals
*February has brought the number of known participants in this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup up to ten, with Brazil and Argentina joining China PR, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland in qualifying for the youth showpiece. Brazil cruised through the CONMEBOL preliminaries, clinching a fifth successive continental title with a game to spare before beating their old rivals and fellow qualifiers 2-0 on the final matchday. The tenth team confirmed for August and September’s U-20 finals are hosts Japan, this after FIFA took the decision that a number of logistical and technical issues would prevent Uzbekistan from staging the tournament as originally planned.
*USA survive Ferns scare
*A few minutes was all that stood between New Zealand pulling one of the biggest upsets in women’s international football, not to mention ending USA’s seven year-plus unbeaten run at home. The Americans, for whom Christie Rampone earned her 250th cap, were trailing 1-0 with just two minutes remaining thanks to Hannah Wilkinson’s strike for the visiting Kiwis. That was when Alex Morgan, clearly with a penchant for the dramatic, stepped forward to restore parity, and then, just minutes later, fire home a dramatic stoppage-time winner. Pia Sundhage’s side will certainly hope to avoid such nervy moments when they open their Algarve Cup campaign against Denmark later today.
*Prinz’s final farewell
*After months of speculation, the DFB confirmed that Birgit Prinz, their all-time record goalscorer, will be honoured with an official farewell match. The three-time former FIFA Women’s World Player will take part in a match between the German national team and FFC Frankfurt, the club with which she spent over 13 years. The venue of the match is even more significant, with Prinz opting for Am Bornheimer Hang - the former home of FSV Frankfurt, where she came through the youth ranks – over the glitzy Commerzbank Arena, which last year hosted the FIFA Women’s World Cup final. As Prinz said: “This is not only a chance for me to say goodbye, but also to say thank you for all the great times I experienced in the national team and with my clubs.”
Club football *Marta on the move
*The collapse of Women’s Professional Soccer in the USA has left many of the game’s top players to seek new employment and, for arguably its biggest star of all, that has meant something of a homecoming. Marta earlier this month confirmed that she would be signing for Tyreso and returning to her “second home” in Sweden, the country in which she spent four happy and successful years with Umea. The five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, still just 26, spoke in fluent Swedish at a packed press conference after agreeing to join the likes of Veronica Boquete, Caroline Seger, Lisa Dahlkvist and Linda Sembrant at the ambitious Stockholm outfit. And she has wasted little time in making an impact, finding the net in a 7-0 friendly victory against Denmark’s Skovbakken in which the impressive Boquete grabbed a hat-trick.
*Turbine feeling the heat
*In a quiet month for women’s club football, Germany provided the bulk of the action, with Turbine Potsdam’s apparent position as champions-elect coming under serious threat. Two successive 1-1 draws, the second of which was at home to bottom side Bayern Leverkusen, have allowed the likes of FCR Duisburg, FFC Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg to narrow the gap at the top and put in jeopardy Turbine’s hopes of a fourth successive Bundesliga crown. With three of the club’s German internationals - Viola Odebrecht, Bianca Schmidt and Babett Peter – also announcing their intention to leave at the end of the season, these are troubled times for the German champions.
*Development *North, Central America and the Caribbean provided for the focus for FIFA’s development work over the past month, with consultancy missions in Saint Lucia and Costa Rica, and a legacy project launched in the latter nation alongside the Host Association and the Local Organising Committee. Elsewhere, Timor Leste hosted a coaching course, while a conference was organised in Vancouver, Canada, where all CONCACAF member associations will participate in analysing the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.
The stat 6 - The number of different clubs Marta has represented in the past five seasons: Umea, Los Angeles Sol, FC Gold Pride, Santos (on loan), Western New York Flash and her latest employers, Tyreso.
*The quote *"I want to become the world's best player at the world's best team.” *Uncapped Japanese striker Ami Otaki sets an ambitious target after signing for European champions Lyon *