With just under four and a half months to go until the opening match of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, France signalled their intent with an impressive 2-0 victory over Canada in the final of this year's Cyprus Women's Cup.
The fifth edition of the tournament featured 12 teams, including Olympic hopefuls France, Canada and South Africa, competing across three groups in the host cities of Larnaca, Nicosia and Paralimni. FIFA.com rounds up the action.
* *Group A
In-form France took Group A by storm with three wins from as many games and just a single goal conceded. After kicking off with a 3-0 victory over Switzerland followed by a 2-1 win against Finland, *Les Bleues *took on England in their final first-round match in a re-match of last year's FIFA Women's World Cup™ quarter-final. Once again the Three Lions proved no match for Bruno Bini's side as Louisa Necib, Marie-Laure Delie and Gaetane Thiney fired their team to a 3-0 success.
"We've come third in this tournament twice before so we really wanted to reach the final," said goalscorer Thiney. "The match against England was different to the one at the World Cup. It was a great team performance, especially in defence. We managed to get forward quickly and showed that we're well-organised. We launched some quick, intelligent counters and didn't panic when we came under pressure. We need to continue in this vein."
Two victories over Finland and Switzerland, coupled with that defeat to France, meant England had to settle for second spot, while the Swiss, under the tutelage of new coach Martina Voss Tecklenburg, finished bottom of the section after failing to pick up a point for the second successive year.
Canada maintained their excellent Olympic qualifying form to top Group B with three wins and eight goals scored. Josh Herdman's charges celebrated a thumping 5-1 victory in their opener against Scotland, before a last-minute strike from Robyn Gayle sunk Italy 2-1 in their subsequent clash. The North Americans then rounded off the group stage with a hard-fought 1-0 defeat of the Netherlands.
Italy, the Netherlands and Scotland all finished on three points after registering one win and two defeats respectively, but it was Petro Ghedin's *Azzurre *who claimed second spot thanks to their superior goals scored tally. The Dutch finished in third, above fourth-placed Scotland on goal difference.
Group C provided further evidence of how competitive the women's game has become at international level. Hot favourites to win the group, Korea Republic kicked off their tournament with a 2-1 win against South Africa, but the Asians were made to work hard for their progress subsequently, edging past Northern Ireland 1-0 before being held to a 1-1 draw by New Zealand. Ultimately seven points were enough to secure the South Koreans top spot.
Germany 2011 participants New Zealand also remained unbeaten in the group stage of this year's competition. The Football Ferns enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland, drew 0-0 with South Africa and earned a 1-1 draw with Korea Republic thanks to Sarah Gregorius' equaliser. New Zealand finished the section on five points, one ahead of third-placed South Africa, while Northern Ireland came in fourth having failed to register a point.
The final day
The final of the Cyprus Women's Cup 2012 pitted Olympic hopefuls France and Canada against one another in Larnaca. The North Americans went into the game with experience of four previous finals, while France were competing in their first. The two sides delivered an entertaining decider, with Bruno Bini's team taking a first-half lead through Marie-Laure Delie. After the break Louisa Necib doubled the advantage from the spot to secure a first-ever Cyprus Women's Cup title for Les Bleues.
Third place went to Italy after they convincingly beat England 3-1 with goals from Patrizia Panico, Pamela Conti and Melania Gabbiadini overturning Jade Moore's first-half opener for the Three Lions.
Penalties were required to decide the matches for fifth and seventh place, with the Netherlands taking victory over New Zealand and Korea Republic beating Finland. Scotland came ninth thanks to a 2-0 win against South Africa, while Switzerland went some way to redeeming themselves for their three group losses with a convincing 5-0 victory over Northern Ireland in the match for 11th place.
Final day results: Match for 11th place: Switzerland 5-0 Northern Ireland
Match for ninth place: Scotland 2-0 South Africa
Match for seventh place: Netherlands 2-2 (4-2 pens) New Zealand
Match for fifth place: Finland 1-1 (6-7 pens) Korea Republic
Match for third place: England 1-3 Italy
Final: France 2-0 Canada