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Women's Football

Women's round-up: April 2012

Anja Mittag (L) of Germany celebrates
© Getty Images

April was a busy month for women's football with the continuation of the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualification campaign and the draw for the Women's Olympic Football Tournament, as well as honours for Birgit Prinz and Steffi Jones.

We also look ahead to the final of the UEFA Women's Champions League between 1. FFC Frankfurt and Olympique Lyon in the latest women's round-up.

National teams Germany march on – Austria in contention
Germany remained on course for a place at the Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden following a resounding 6-0 qualifying victory over Switzerland. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi netted four as Silvia Neid's ensemble consolidated their position at the top of Group 2, three points ahead of Spain, who thrashed Kazakhstan 13-0.

France powered on in Group 4 with a 4-0 success against Wales to extend their lead over second-placed Scotland to 11 points, while Austria kept their qualification hopes alive in Group 7 thanks to Laura Feiersinger's strike in a 1-0 victory against Portugal. Dominik Thalhammer's side are now just two points behind leaders Denmark but have played a game more.

London, here we come!
New Zealand became the final team to book their place at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012, underscoring their dominance of Oceania with a 15-0 aggregate victory over Papua New Guinea. After scoring eight in the first leg, the Football Ferns could have been forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal in the return, but goals from Hayley Moorwood, Sarah Gregorius, Hannah Wilkinson and an own-goal sent them into a 4-0 lead by half-time.

Further strikes from Anna Green, Betsy Hassett and Gregorius again from the spot completed the scoring. "We knew after the first leg that the job was more or less done, but we couldn't celebrate until we'd actually booked our ticket," said coach Tony Readings.

Junior Football Ferns in form
Indeed, it was a successful month for women's football in New Zealand generally as the Junior Football Ferns and the Young Football Ferns each secured qualification for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2012 in Japan and the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012 in Azerbaijan respectively.

Both sides stormed through their groups with three straight wins, with the U-20s setting a new record for goals scored to ensure their fourth consecutive appearance at the tournament. Meanwhile, Gambia can look forward to making their FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup debut after claiming the last remaining African berth with victory over Tunisia.

Olympic hopefuls learn their fates
Three months and a day before the Olympic Football Tournament kicks off at London 2012, the draw for the group stage took place at Wembley Stadium, the venue for the final. Hosts Great Britain were pitted against New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil in Group E, while reigning world champions Japan will take on Canada, Sweden and South Africa in Group F. Defending champions USA will play in Group G along with France, Colombia and Korea DPR.

Club football Duel of the giants
Two of Europe's most successful clubs will go head to head in the final of the UEFA Women's Champions League at Munich's famous Olympiastadion on 17 May. Curiously, 1. FFC Frankfurt have never met Olympique Lyon in European competition, but they will be eager to ensure the trophy remains on German soil. The experienced outfit reached the decider for a fifth time with victory over Arsenal in the semis.

Their task is an unenviable one, however, with opponents Lyon set to compete in their third straight final following a 5-1 aggregate success against Turbine Potsdam in the last four. Patrice Lair's side are aiming to become only the second team in the history of the competition to successfully defend the title.

Seasons resume
The domestic seasons in Germany, Spain and Switzerland may already be heading into the home straight, but fans in Japan, Sweden and England were made to wait a little longer for their leagues to resume this year. The action finally got going across the board in April, with INAC Kobe Leonessa, NTV Beleza and Okayama Belle Yunogo leading the way in Japan and Tyreso FF, Kopparbergs/Goteborg and Vittsjo all level at the top in Sweden. In England, Champions League semi-finalists Arsenal won each of their opening two fixtures to take over at the WSL summit.

Tel Aviv defend title
ASA Tel Aviv successfully defended their title in the Israeli Women's League, racking up 54 points after 20 matches to pip Maccabi Holon to the post. Tel Aviv crowned their success on the final day with a 6-1 victory over Maccabi Beer Sheva.

*Memorable moment *Former Germany stars Birgit Prinz and Steffi Jones were each honoured in April in recognition of their respective contributions to the feminine side of the sport. The duo were appointed official FIFA ambassadors for women's football.

*Developing the women's game *To round off a successful FIFA Women's Football Conference, which took place in Rome from 11-14 April, a 'Grassroots Festival' was held across Italy in celebration of women's football. 'Grassroots Soccer' promotes the development of football among children, as well as the humanitarian components of the game. The 'Grassroots' programme aims to bring the joy of football to children around the world. Overall, around 4,400 young women aged between eight and 14 took part in the event.

Zagatala was the venue for the second of seven 'Live your goals' festivals in Azerbaijan. Azeri football legends Iskandar Javadov and Rustam Rahimov, as well as U-17 international Shahnaz Mammadova, all attended and greeted those taking part. Further women's football courses were also held in Palestine, Dominica, the Solomon Islands, Costa Rica, Uzbekistan and Kuwait over the past month.

The stat 28 – New Zealand's U-20s netted 28 goals en route to qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Japan – a new record. Their 12-0 victory against Samoa also set a new benchmark for the highest winning margin.

Quote of the month *"This is the time now for women’s football to kick on and really be a showcase to see what the women’s game is about. The opening game at Cardiff is the event before the big ceremony so all eyes will hopefully be on that. This is definitely our time now for women’s football to be seen in the press and on TV and raise the profile of the women’s game," England striker Kelly Smith in an exclusive interview with after the draw for the Women's Olympic Football Tournament.*

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