A palpable sense of excitement is growing in women’s football at present, with several major international competitions marked on the calendar over the coming weeks. In just a fortnight the first ball will roll at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, while at the same time the world’s best senior teams will lock horns at prestigious annual invitational tournaments in the Portuguese Algarve and in Cyprus.
There was also a foretaste of what is to come over the next few months as another continent kicked off its FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ qualifying campaign. And after New Zealand recently booked their place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014, the 16-team tournament line-up is now complete.
Away from the build-up to those forthcoming international showdowns there was plenty of other action in the women’s game too. *FIFA.com *rounds-up the latest global events from the past month, taking in England, China PR, Sweden, Japan, Hungary and Germany, while also casting the spotlight on North America and Africa.
*A 2-0 triumph in the grand final of the Australian W-League handed Melbourne Victory a maiden domestic championship title. Goals from Lisa De Vanna and Lauren Barnes at the Lakeside Stadium were enough to overcome two-time champions Brisbane Roar, for whom FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2013 Nadine Angerer made her last appearance. The Germany international goalkeeper will don her gloves for reigning USA champions Portland Thorns from April onwards.
*Chelsea bolster ranks
*Chelsea LFC made a strong statement of their Women's Super League title intentions recently with the signings of seven big-name players. Alongside recruiting England internationals Katie Chapman, Gilly Flaherty, Rachel Williams and Laura Bassett, the south-west Londoners brought in Sweden’s Emma Wilhelmsson, South Korea’s Ji So Yun and Dutch star Jackie Groenen ahead of the season start on 16 April.
*Kawasumi to Seattle
*Japanese World Cup winner Nahomi Kawasumi has joined USA outfit Seattle Reign on loan from INAC Kobe Leonessa. The 28-year-old midfielder played a key role in helping Leonessa to three successive championship titles in her homeland between 2011 and 2013 and was also named as the Nadeshiko League’s best player last term. “Naho is a world class player who will give our attack a new dimension in the coming season,” said Seattle coach Laura Harvey.
*Germany’s record title-holders 1. FFC Frankfurt are on course to return to past glories in the country’s domestic league after failing to lift the winner’s trophy for the last six years. Under the guidance of English coach Colin Bell, the seven-time champions appear ready to end their drought this term and currently top the standings, marginally ahead of Turbine Potsdam and VfL Wolfsburg at the halfway stage of the 22-game season. Furthermore, the three-time UEFA Cup winners were able to extend the contract of 23-year-old Swiss international striker Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic until June 2015.
World Cup qualification starts in Africa* *With Canada 2015 qualifying already well underway in Europe, Africa was the next continent to get their World Cup campaign up and running. Seven two-legged fixtures make up the first round of qualifiers, with the winners going on to meet Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal and Comoros in the second round. The resulting seven victorious nations will join hosts Namibia at the CAF African Women’s Championship 2014 to be played between 11-25 October to determine which three teams will secure a World Cup berth. The results from the first legs of the first round of matches are as follows:
Côte d’Ivoire 4-0 Mali (return leg on 28 February)
Zambia 2-1 Tanzania (return leg on 28 February)
Algeria 2-0 Morocco (return leg on 1 March)
Egypt 0-3 Tunisia (return leg on 1 March)
Rwanda 1-0 Kenya (return leg on 2 March)
Botswana 0-1 Zimbabwe (return leg on 2 March)
Burkina Faso 0-3 Ghana (return leg on 2 March)
*Tournament victory for China
*China PR may only be in 18th place in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, but the 1999 World Cup runners-up are starting to make their presence felt among the world’s elite once more, winning the prestigious Yongchuan Cup 2014 on home soil. The hosts beat New Zealand 1-0, Mexico 3-1 and Korea DPR 1-0 in the round-robin tournament that took place from 11-15 February.
*Oqvist hangs up international boots
*Sweden were left reeling by Josefine Oqvist’s announcement that she will retire from international duty. The 31-year-old striker, who plays for French side Montpellier Herault, explained that the decision stems from her desire to spend more time with her family: “It was an honour to represent Sweden and I’ll really miss it, but now I have my daughter Stella and she’s the most important thing for me.” Oqvist scored 20 goals in 80 appearances for her country and helped Sweden to a third-placed finish at the 2011 World Cup in Germany.
*New faces in Hungary and Portugal
*After Attila Vago stepped down as Hungary coach in January, 40-year-old former Hungary international Edina Marko was brought in to replace him, becoming the first woman to take charge of the nation ranked 37th in the world. Meanwhile, 32-year-old Francisco Neto took the reins of the Portuguese national team following Antonio Violante’s departure. “We will continue on the path Violante started on,” said Neto at his unveiling. “His main objective was to close the gap on the best teams in women’s football.”
*Football development *Former England coach Hope Powell lead a women's football coaching seminar in Finland between 21-23 February. The event had been organised by UEFA and supported by FIFA. It was also linked to a regional club competition. Meanwhile, American Samoa were in the focus on 22 February when a girls festival took place to promote women's football and to encourage young women to take part in the beautiful game.
80 - USA’s 8-0 thrashing of Russia in Atlanta a fortnight ago took their impressive unbeaten run at home to 80 games. The Olympic champions’ last defeat on their own turf came in a 3-1 reverse against Denmark in Philadelphia on 6 November 2004.
"I’m happy for the game, the level it’s gotten to. I'm happy that these women are able to compete on a more consistent basis and not only get together and play with the national team a couple of times a year. The federations are investing in different programs and you are seeing world championships at all different youth levels. The games are real celebrations. This is exciting, not only as a former player, but as a fan of the game.”
USA women’s football icon Mia Hamm in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com about the development and increasing popularity of the women’s game across the globe.