Although it has been a largely low-key start to the year, qualifying action for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the crowning of the best female player of 2013 have illuminated the female game during January.
History was also made with the first meeting of the FIFA Task Force for Women’s Football, which set about formulating FIFA’s strategy for women’s football in the short and longer term. As the task force’s chairwoman, Moya Dodd, said: “FIFA must be the engine of women’s football development.”
On the field, there has also been plenty to report on, and* FIFA.com’s* latest monthly round-up starts with news of a shock result and big transfers.
Club Football *PSG halt Lyon’s run *
Lyon’s dominance of women’s football has gone almost unchallenged for years, with each of the last seven league titles secured with relative ease. Indeed, the serial champions went into their match with Paris Saint-Germain on 18 January without a domestic defeat in three years, ten months and two weeks. All good things must come to an end, though, and PSG confirmed their status as the greatest threat to this long-held monopoly with a 1-0 win in which former Lyon star Laura Georges scored the only goal. OL Ladies nonetheless remain three points clear at the top of the table and have bounced back in the time since with a spectacular 18-0 cup win over Pontarlier, with Lotta Schelin alone scoring five times.
*NWSL hopefuls snap up stars
*The defeat to PSG wasn’t the only blow Lyon suffered during January, with their USA international Megan Rapinoe returning to her homeland in a move to Seattle Reign. The midfielder described the NWSL as “the strongest league in the world” after completing the transfer, and Reign’s rivals have also been doing their bit to prove its pulling power. Portland Thorns, for example, have secured the signatures of Nadine Angerer, more of whom later, and Amber Brooks, while Chicago Red Stars have signed Canadian stalwarts Karina LeBlanc and Melissa Tancredi. The strengths of the squads being assembled will become clear when the NWSL's second season kicks off in April.
*City state their intentions
*It wasn’t only in USA that the big January moves were taking place, with Manchester City making plain their ambitions to assemble a women’s side every bit as formidable as their male counterparts. The team’s glitzy relaunch last Friday, which was attended by Manuel Pellegrini and Patrick Vieira among others, followed an impressive recruitment drive which has brought in the likes of England internationals Jill Scott, Toni Duggan, Karen Bardsley and Steph Houghton. Chelsea, meanwhile, have attempted to keep pace by announcing the signing of Korea Republic international Ji Soyun, while Arsenal’s attempts to reclaim the championship have been boosted by Kelly Smith agreeing a new deal as player-coach.
National teams *Angerer makes history
*Monday 13 January saw Nadine Angerer as named FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2013, seeing off competition from Abby Wambach and Marta. The Germany goalkeeper, whose memorable year had included two penalty saves in the UEFA Women’s EURO final win over Norway, was a popular winner and a noteworthy one too. After all, she not only became the first goalkeeper to take the award but, at 35, is its oldest recipient to date. There was also recognition for Angerer’s international coach, Silvia Neid, who described as "an incredible honour" being named FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football for the second time.
*Canada 2014 takes shape
*A glut of qualifying competitions have taken place over the course of the month, with teams in three different confederations vying for places at August’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada. The CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship got the ball rolling, and USA were hugely impressive, scoring 29 goals without reply en route to qualifying alongside Mexico and Costa Rica. Nigeria were similarly imperious in the CAF event, advancing to Canada 2014 with a 31-0 aggregate scoreline, while Ghana scraped through in a much tighter tie against Equatorial Guinea. The South American U-20 Championship concludes later today, although Brazil and Paraguay go into the final matches already assured of their places at the world finals.
*Big guns set Cyprus test
*Earlier this week, the draw took place for March’s eagerly anticipated Cyprus Cup, in which some of the world’s top women’s teams will go head-to-head. Reigning champions England face a stern test in Group A, with three-time winners Canada sure to offer tough opposition along with Italy and Finland. France, meanwhile, will face Australia, the Netherlands and Scotland in Group B, while Korea Republic will go up against New Zealand, Republic of Ireland and Switzerland in a tough-to-predict Group C.
The stat 87 - The number of unbeaten matches Lyon had strung together in French domestic football prior to their streak-ending defeat by PSG.
*The quote *"I didn't prepare a speech or anything, I told [my partner] during the ceremony, 'I hope I don't win because I can't say a word.' I was named and I was like, 'No!' I was happy, of course, but I knew then I had to say something,” *Nadine Angerer on the downside of winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or. *