FIFA.com reflects on another action-packed month in the world of women’s football. In the international sphere, Europe’s finest are busily preparing for July’s UEFA Women’s EURO, while a new-look USA appear to have lost little momentum despite a change of coach and host of new playing personnel. Meanwhile, world champions Japan are another nation examining options among their playing stocks. On the club front, the rejuvenated national league in the United States looms on the horizon, while Swedish clubs have been busy in the off-season transfer market.
National teams *EURO build-up gathers momentum
*The run-in to July’s UEFA Women’s EURO continues to build with a host of key match-ups over the past month. The highlight was undoubtedly a six-goal thriller as continental heavyweights France and Germany shared the spoils in Strasbourg. The reigning continental champions needed a second-half double from Nadine Kessler to avoid defeat against France, for whom Louisa Necib was twice on the scoresheet. Priscilla de Vos had a debut to remember with her injury-time winner helping Netherlands to a 3-2 win over neighbours Belgium. Finland overpowered an experimental Russia 5-0, with striker Linda Sallstrom ended a year-long injury absence with a goal just four minutes after entering the fray. Goals were, however, harder to come by in Madrid as Spain and Denmark played out a goalless stalemate.
*New-look Stars & Stripes maintain winning form
*A new era for reigning Olympic champions USA under Tom Sermanni began seamlessly with the Scottish-born Australian coach having assumed the reins from Pia Sundhage. Scotland, ironically enough, provided the opposition but the home side were rarely troubled in winning 4-1 and 3-1 in Jacksonville and Nashville. A number of new faces made their debuts against the Scots, including striker Christen Press of Swedish champions Tyreso who bagged a double in her maiden international outing, plus 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup-winners Julie Johnston and Crystal Dunn.
Sasaki looks to the future
*Japan’s squad at next week’s Algarve Cup will be missing several key names with coach Norio Sasaki saying the first half of 2013 will be about making a “base” for the *Nadeshiko’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ defence. Among the high profile absentees are captain Aya Miyama and 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa, as well as forwards Shinobu Ohno and Kozue Ando. In their stead are the likes of Lyon youngster Ami Otaki, highly regarded INAC Kobe Leonessa forward Mai Kyokawa, and Yoko Tanaka, winner of the adidas Silver Shoe at last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.
*Excitement grows Stateside
*USA’s relaunched national league is looming ever closer with the competition’s start date and fixtures confirmed. The National Women’s Soccer League will commence on 13 April with FC Kansas City hosting the league’s first-ever match against Portland Thorns FC, who boast 2012 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year nominee Alex Morgan among their ranks. The remaining six teams - Seattle Reign FC, Chicago Red Stars, Western New York Flash, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit and Boston Breakers – will all make their bow the following day. The 22-match regular season will conclude in mid-August, with the inaugural champion to be determined on 31 August.
Sweden’s magnetic effect
*A number of high-profile signings have been made ahead of the new season in Sweden next month, offering further evidence of the *Damallsvenskan’s growing stature. Most notably, Malmo have signed Colombia midfielder Yoreli Rincon, as well as German defender Kathleen Radtke. Champions Tyreso have confirmed the signing of Brazil superstar Marta for another season, with the five-time FIFA World Player of the Year to be joined up front by free-scoring USA attacker Christen Press, who has been recruited from Gothenburg. Replacing Press at Gothenburg is Sweden forward Jessica Landstrom who joins from relegated Djurgarden, while highly regarded Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams has linked with Pitea.
In February, the FIFA women's football development team organised a number of projects including women's football courses, girls festival and Com-unity with women's football consultancy taking place in Serbia, Zambia and Finland respectively. Com-unity is a presidential programme, with the seminars specifically aim to promote women's football in Zambia and attract investment for the women's game from other sectors within the community.
The stat 7 – The numbers of players in USA’s 23-strong Algarve Cup squad that have five caps or less. It is a figure which contrasts markedly with USA’s vastly experienced line-up for the 2012 Olympic Women’s Football Tournament, which included 11 veterans of Beijing 2008.
What they said *“Brazil focuses on women’s football whenever there’s a big tournament, but as soon as it’s over, it’s forgotten about. We’re taking little steps in the right direction and we are making progress, but it’s all happening too slowly.” *Marta tells FIFA.com her views on women’s football in her homeland.