FIFA.com reflects on a month in women’s football in which Costa Rica, England and USA all captured international titles, and the semi-finals took shape in Europe’s elite club competition.
*Titans clash in Algarve
*The Algarve Cup has become an established barometer of the pecking order in women’s football, and its 20th edition proved no different. Most of the major contenders looked to introduce some new, youthful faces to their line-ups, but the final pitted together familiar giants: USA and Germany. Ultimately, Alex Morgan - even without her regular strike partner Abby Wambach - proved the difference between the two sides; her first-half double earning new coach Tom Sermanni the first trophy of his reign. There was encouragement too for Norway, who saw off Denmark and world champions Japan to qualify from their section before beating Sweden on penalties to finish third.
Sweet revenge in Cyprus
While USA were lifting silverware in Algarve, England were enjoying success in another sun-kissed European location. It was Hope Powell’s side who emerged triumphant from the 12-nation Cyprus Cup, exacting revenge for Team GB’s Olympic heartbreak against Canada by beating the North Americans 1-0 in a tight final. The tournament also represented something of a triumph for New Zealand, who beat Switzerland to finish third, and for an ever-improving Scotland team, who secured fifth place with a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.
*Ticas triumph in Central America
*Costa Rica provided an awesome show of strength at the Central American Games, cruising to victory in with a dominant display in the regional finals. The Ticas’ record at the competition’s conclusion was played five, won five, with 27 goals for and just one against. Nicaragua were certainly no match for the tournament hosts in a one-sided final in which Wendy Acosta scored twice to help secure a comfortable 4-0 win. The battle for bronze was a little more closely-matched, though, with Guatemala edging Panama 5-3 to take the final podium position.
* Club Football **Big guns survive in Champions League
*The quarter-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League proved to be devoid of upsets as the tournament favourites marched on to the last four. Next up will be an intriguing all-French semi-final between Lyon and Juvisy, 8-0 and 4-1 aggregate winners over the Swedish duo of Malmo and Gothenburg respectively. Arsenal, meanwhile - who won the European title back in 2007 – face a tough test against German league leaders Wolfsburg. The England side edged out Italians Torres 4-1 on aggregate, while Wolfsburg triumphed by an identical margin over up-and-coming Russian side Rossiyanka.
*Gains and losses in USA
*With the first National Women’s Soccer League set to kick off on 13 April, the eight teams have been busy putting the final touches to their squads. For Chicago Red Stars, that has meant signing the league’s first German players, with former FC Zurich stars Inka Grings and Sonja Fuss supplementing a line-up that already included the likes of Shannon Boxx and Amy LePeilbet. Sky Blue FC, meanwhile, have snapped up talented young Australian Caitlin Foord, who will link up with her international team-mate Lisa De Vanna in New Jersey. But the news hasn’t been so positive for Seattle Reign, who suffered a major setback with the news that star goalkeeper Hope Solo has been ruled out for up to four months after surgery on her left wrist. And one player who won’t be involved in the new league is Solo’s former USA colleague, Heather Mitts. The 137-times capped defender has decided to retire from the game at the age of 34, having previously been allocated to the Boston Breakers.
*Development *During March, FIFA’s women's football development team's work took them across four continents. A quartet of nations - Timor-Leste, Madagascar, Turkey and Liberia – benefited from consultancy programmes, which involve women’s football specialists being appointed on a temporary basis to achieve nation-specific missions in developing the game. Elsewhere, a coaching course was held in Guinea-Bissau, while Ecuador played host to both a women’s development seminar and a girl’s festival.
The stat 22 - The long run of matches without defeat that came to an end for Germany when they lost out to old foes USA in the Algarve Cup final.
What they said *“I think the best part of my game is always being in the right position in the box, always wanting to score. Just having that instinct and confidence - knowing that I am going to score, even if I have missed the last 20 shots.” *Alex Morgan tells FIFA.com about her greatest strength.