Women’s EURO qualifiers and Rio tune-ups dominated a busy month of women’s football that also brought silverware to clubs in Spain and Denmark. FIFA.com looks back over the main events.
Swiss debutantes join EURO big guns
*Next year’s UEFA Women’s EURO line-up continued to take shape this month, with Switzerland, England, Norway and Spain securing their places at Netherlands 2017 alongside the already-qualified duo of France and Germany. The Swiss will be taking place in the European showpiece for the first time, having made sure of their place with a 5-0 thrashing of Czech Republic – their sixth win in as many qualifiers. “We’re proud and looking forward to making our EURO debut,” said coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. “We’ve got a fantastic tournament ahead of us in summer 2017, one that we qualified for deservedly and in impressive style.” Top-two group spots have also been confirmed by Iceland, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Belgium and Austria, although only the six best-placed runners-up will advance, with the remaining two playing off for the last remaining berth. Qualifying action resumes in mid-September.
Final rematches thrill US fans
USA and Japan, the teams that have contested each of the last two FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals, did battle twice more this month in contests that more than lived up to their billing. The first of their two friendlies was a veritable thriller as the sides shared six goals in Colorado, where Alex Morgan’s brace and Lindsay Horan’s 89th-minute goal looked to have secured a US win before Kumi Yokoyama struck in stoppage time. Morgan was again on target when these titans resumed battle in Cleveland, a match in which USA were 2-0 up before bad weather forced its abandonment with 14 minutes remaining.
*Rio-bound heavyweights trade blows
* There was plenty of high-profile friendly action taking place elsewhere, too, with Canada and Brazil among the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament medal hopefuls in action. The Brazilians drew first blood in the two-match series, with a resurgent Marta scoring both goals in an impressive 2-0 win in Toronto. The Canucks responded, though, winning the return 1-0 in Ottawa with virtually the last kick of the ball, Janine Beckie’s stoppage-time lob delighting the 23,568 crowd. Australia and New Zealand also met in back-to-back friendlies and it was the Matildas who emerged marginally the happier. The Aussies were certainly deserving winners in the opening encounter, triumphing 2-0 thanks to a Caitlin Foord double, and they preserved their 22-year unbeaten run against the Kiwis in the second meeting when Lisa De Vanna’s strike cancelled out Katie Bowen’s first international goal.
*Club Football * *Atletico add salt to Barça wounds
* Spain’s Copa de la Reina has another new name on the trophy after Atletico Madrid became the 14th different team to lift the trophy. Four-time winners Barcelona, fresh from being pipped to the league title, once again found themselves in the role of bridesmaids after a thrilling final. Atletico looked to have the cup sewn up at half-time after racing into a 3-0 win only for *Barça *to battle back in the second period with two Jenni Hermoso goals in six minutes, sparking the nerviest of finales. Atletico hung on, though, leaving the Catalans without a national title for the first time since 2010.
*Fortuna maintain Danish duopoly
* Fortuna Hjorring reclaimed the Danish Elitedivisionen title from Brondby this month, beating their old rivals 2-1 on the final day of the season. The provincial outfit, who hail from a town of just 25,000 people and are celebrating their 50th anniversary, now have nine championships to their name – just one short of their big-city adversaries’ joint national record. Between them, Fortuna and Brondby have topped the table in each of the past 15 seasons.
Reign recruit Japan star
* The month’s big transfer saw Seattle Reign sign Montpellier’s Japan international midfielder Rumi Utsugi. The 27-year-old arrives with a huge wealth of experience, having represented the *Nadeshiko at each of the last three Women’s World Cups. Utugi spoke of joining “a young team with enormous potential”, while Reign’s general manager and coach, Laura Harvey, expressed her delight at landing a long-time target. “We’ve had our eye on Rumi since the World Cup last year,” said Harvey. “She had a terrific tournament and showed she can perform in high-pressure situations against some of the world’s most talented players and teams.”
The stat * *99 USA shutouts have now been racked up by Hope Solo. The record-breaking keeper could complete her century as early as 9 July, when the Stars & Stripes take on South Africa for the first time.
The quote * “I played for years on these pitches and I’m happy today to take part in developing them, so that Jordanian football can benefit from them for years to come. I was an international for eight years before an injury forced me to retire. And while that was really painful to accept, I can say that football has taught me how to turn weaknesses into strengths and how to play as a part of a team and attain your ultimate goal.”
*Farah Al-Badarneh, a former Jordan women’s international who is now responsible for the renovation and development of the country’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup stadiums