In September, women’s football was dominated by qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. Seven sides from Europe and two from South America secured their places at next summer’s finals, which will see 24 teams compete for the title for the first time. FIFA.com brings you all the latest important news from the women’s game around the world.
*International football *
The magnificent seven
Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, Spain, France and Switzerland have all booked their World Cup tickets as group winners and will be joined by the side that emerges victorious from play-offs between the four best group runners-up in October and November.
Switzerland and Spain’s success means they will be making their World Cup debuts next year, with coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s Swiss side also managing the particularly impressive feat of being the first European team to qualify back in June. In contrast, Sweden had to wait until September to learn their fate. In Group 4, Pia Sundhage’s side were locked in a fascinating battle with Scotland that was only resolved with a 2-0 win for the Scandinavians in a head-to-head encounter in the final group game.
Germany, England and France completed their qualifying campaigns without dropping a single point, each securing their passage to the finals with a 30-point haul, while Norway suffered their only qualifying defeat at the hands of the Netherlands in the final round of matches.
*European qualifying play-off draw confirmed*
Scotland, Italy, Ukraine and the Netherlands are the four European sides with chance to compete for the last ticket to Canada 2015. On 23 September the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) made the play-off draw in Nyon. Scotland begin by hosting the Netherlands while Italy take home advantage against Ukraine in their first leg. These semi-finals will take place on 25/26 and 29/30 October, with the winners contesting the final on 22/23 and 26/27 November to determine the final European participant at next summer’s tournament.
*Brazil win Copa America Femenina *
Europe was not the only continent playing host to World Cup qualifying celebrations in September. South American sides Brazil and Colombia will also be showing off their brand of footballing artistry to Canada’s fans next year after securing the two guaranteed World Cup spots at the Copa America Femenina, held in Ecuador from 11 to 28 September 2014. The competition was won for the sixth time by the Canarinhas, who defeated the hosts and Argentina in the final round and played out a goalless draw against eventual runners-up Colombia. The Cafeteras enjoyed similar success, as their second-place finish ensured qualification not only for next summer’s World Cup but also for the 2016 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Ecuador, meanwhile, qualified for an intercontinental play-off against the team that finishes fourth in the CONCACAF region.
Solo enters the record books
In the USA’s 8-0 thrashing of Mexico, American goalkeeper Hope Solo kept her 72nd clean sheet in her 154th international match to surpass compatriot Briana Scurry for all-time shutouts. The margin of victory in the Mexico encounter was the same as that recorded on Solo’s debut against Iceland in April 2000. “The best is yet to come,” the Seattle Reign shot-stopper vowed to a cheering crowd in Washington. “It’s been a long journey. A lot of tears, a lot of blood, a lot of sweat. Some heartaches, some incredible moments,” she continued. “It’s crazy to think it’s been close to 15 years.” Five days later she successfully defended her goal against Mexico again in a 4-0 win.
Rosengard retain crown with time to spare
'The early bird catches the worm' is a proverb Rosengard appear to have taken to heart recently. The reigning champions, who were still known as Malmo last season, successfully defended their Damallsvenskan title with two matches to spare thanks to a 3-2 win against second-placed Kopparbergs/Goteborg. German international Anja Mittag and five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta led Rosengard to victory. Mittag currently tops the goalscorers’ list with a tally of 22, further reinforcing her reputation as a prolific striker.
*Races wide open in Australia and Spain*
Rosengard are not the only side to wrap up their domestic campaigns recently. The USA’s latest champions were crowned in August while the Women’s Super League in England is now rapidly nearing its conclusion.
Nevertheless, new seasons are only just beginning in Australia and Spain. Sydney FC and Perth Glory have emerged as early contenders for the Australian W-League title, making a perfect start after the first three rounds of matches. The same number of games has been played in Spain’s Primera Division, where defending champions Barcelona currently have to settle for fifth place after opening their campaign with two wins and a defeat.
*Golden girl Petermann returns to Germany*
At this summer’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014 in Canada, Lena Petermann’s winning goal in the final against Nigeria catapulted her into the history books and onto the wish lists of several major clubs. Freiburg ultimately emerged as the preferred destination for the striker, who has now left her studies at the University of Central Florida in Orlando to pen a two-year contract with the Bundesliga side. Petermann made her first appearance for her new club against Duisburg on 20 September.
*The stat *
*62 *– Two-time World Cup winners and eight-time European champions Germany were in fine fettle during qualification for Canada 2015. With 62 goals, Silvia Neid’s charges were the most prolific goalscorers by some distance. France found the back of the opposition’s net 54 times while Switzerland fired home on 53 occasions.
"As for the Women’s World Cup, I think it’s going to be a great tournament, and opening it up to 24 teams has provided lots of teams – ourselves in South Africa included – with real encouragement. It’s given smaller countries a chance to reach the elite competition and, once that happens, I think you’ll see women’s football coming on in leaps and bounds across the world."
*Fran Hilton-Smith, technical director at the South African Football Association *