There has surely never been a bigger year in women’s football than 2015. The FIFA Women’s World Cup™ proved to be a glittering showcase for the game, with massive interest underpinning a fine month of competitive and high-quality football. Elsewhere, there were countless major indicators of its growth at senior and grassroots level, as well as positive moves on an administrative front. *FIFA.com *takes a look back at a massive 12 months for women’s football.
*Canada 2015 *
*Stars and Stripes flutter proudly
*USA lifted a third Women’s World Cup after a dynamic showing in the Final against Japan, in a repeat of the decider from four years earlier. USA attacking midfielder Carli Lloyd completed a remarkable hat-trick inside 16 minutes as the Stars and Stripes won 5-2. England enjoyed a stellar run to the semi-finals, before claiming a rare win over Germany to secure third.
New faces, increased competition
In the end it was a pre-tournament favourite that won Canada 2015’s big prize. But the 2015 edition of the tournament will also be remembered for the performance of some of the traditional lesser lights. Colombia were among those who continued their tremendous upward trajectory, most notably defeating France in one of the all-time great FIFA Women’s World Cup upsets. The increase to 24 teams saw eight debutants, but any fears of mismatches were soon allayed. Cameroon proved dynamic in winning through to the Round of 16, as other new faces Switzerland and Netherlands did likewise. Thailand claimed a win, while Costa Rica were hugely competitive amid narrowly missing out on the knockout stage.
*New audience highs *
The Women’s World Cup is now the second most-watched FIFA competition, with new TV records set in several nations. A staggering 764 million in-home TV viewers watched at least one minute of match action from Canada 2015. Meanwhile, the Final has become the most-watched male or female football match in the USA. There was also cause for celebration away from the pitch as massive crowds swarmed into the six venues. Canada 2015 averaged 48,380 fans for their five matches, also setting a new high for a Canada national team match of any sport as over 54,000 watched their epic quarter-final against England.
Big names hang up boots
Some of the game’s biggest players said farewell during 2015. The most surprising retiree was Germany striker Celia Sasic who, despite collecting the adidas Golden Boot for her six goals in Canada, exited the game aged just 27. But even bigger news was this month’s exit for two former FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year winners – Abby Wambach and Homare Sawa. The American ends as the highest goalscorer in international football with a stunning tally of 184 goals. Sawa had long been the lynchpin of the Japan team, with the highlight of her six Women’s World Cup appearances being that stunning triumph at Germany 2011. Among just some of the others to hang up the boots were USA’s Women’s World Cup-winning midfield pair Lauren Holiday and Shannon Boxx.
*Club football *
Domestic football continued to advance across many areas of the globe in terms of both interest and standard. 1.FFC Frankfurt were crowned UEFA Women’s Champions League winners, with the competition enjoying some record attendances in the wake of Canada 2015. It was a similar story Stateside where numerous five-figure crowds were recorded with Kansas City eventually retaining their crown.
FIFA provided an unprecedented amount of support to women’s football development during the past year. The figures make for impressive reading. There were 451 activities that took place across 130 Member Associations, each of whom benefited from one or more of the nine FIFA development programmes targeted specifically for women’s football. This compares to 94 Members Associations in 2014 and 67 in 2013.
The stat 158 – While all the recent focus has been on record goalscorer Abby Wambach, Canada icon Christine Sinclair has quietly drawn level with Mia Hamm as the world’s second-highest international goalscorer on 158 goals.
*What’s next *The coming year may not quite attract the same headlines as 2015, but nevertheless it promises to be a milestone period for the game as the game gathers momentum amid new frontiers. Twelve of the globe’s elite nations will feature at the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Women’s football has sometimes struggled to gain a strong foothold in Brazil, making this tournament extra significant. Also notable will be the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea, where the nation will become the first Pacific Islands’ nation to host a women’s event. Most noteworthy, however, will be the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup as Jordan plays host to the first FIFA women’s tournament in the Arabic-speaking world.