Exactly 109 days before taking on hosts and holders Germany in the Opening Match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™, Canada have given yet another impressive demonstration of their footballing credentials. Carolina Morace’s in-form team beat the Netherlands 2-1 after extra time in the final of the Cyprus Women’s Cup, retaining the trophy they won last year and sending out a clear statement of intent to their rivals.
The fourth edition of the prestige tournament featured 12 teams split into three groups, with matches played in Larnaca, Nicosia and Paralimni. This year’s contest featured no fewer than five Germany 2011 hopefuls: England, New Zealand and Mexico, and Germany’s group stage opponents Canada and France. FIFA.com reviews the pick of the action.
*Canada comfortably won Group A with three straight victories and no goals conceded. In the clash with England, Christine Sinclair and Brittany Timko struck either side of half-time to secure a 2-0 victory for the North Americans and underline the seriousness of their challenge this year. The Canadians had previously recorded tight but deserved 1-0 wins against Italy and Scotland.
England opened with a promising 2-0 success against Italy, but Hope Powell’s side then fell to a shock 2-0 defeat against the Scots, with Kim Little and Jennifer Beattie sealing their country’s first victory over England in more than 30 years. "I'm absolutely delighted with the result,” coach Anna Signeul told the Scottish FA website afterwards. "We played well against Canada in the first game but the result didn't go our way. We built on that performance and put on a really impressive display today." England had to be content with third spot in the section, after Scotland and Italy played out a goalless draw.
*Group B also featured two FIFA Women’s World Cup contenders, France and New Zealand. However, contrary to pre-tournament expectations, it was the Netherlands who strode forward to top spot and a place in the final, with three convincing wins and 12 goals scored. The Oranje stars opened in style with a clear-cut 4-1 triumph against New Zealand. Sherida Spitse opened the scoring midway through the first half before a Manon Melis brace put the Dutch firmly in the driving seat at half-time. Sara Gregorius pulled one back 15 minutes from the end, but Renee Slegers restored the three-goal margin with five minutes left.
The Dutch were pushed a lot harder by France, as Slegers and Camille Abily traded early goals, before Melis again came up trumps with the 73rd-minute winner. In their final group outing, however, the women in orange ran riot against Switzerland with an emphatic 6-0 success. Elsewhere, in the clash between Women’s World Cup starters France and New Zealand, the Europeans gained the psychological edge with a 5-2 victory. It was a sobering group stage for Switzerland, meanwhile, who fell 2-0 to the French and 2-1 to New Zealand, finishing their programme without a point.
*Korea Republic proved that their spot in the top 20 of the FIFA Women’s World Ranking is no accident by finishing top of the section. Lee Sea-Eun scored the first hat-trick of this year’s Cyprus Women’s Cup to secure a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland, before the Koreans drew 1-1 with FIFA Women’s World Cup contenders Mexico, and beat Russia 2-1. Mexico were forced to settle for the runners-up spot after a goalless draw with Russia and a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland who, like the Swiss, finished without a point for their efforts.
*Canada and the Netherlands faced off in the Cyprus Women’s Cup final in Paralimni, with neither having dropped a point en route. The game lived up to its billing with action at both ends throughout before the contest was finally settled in extra time.
Morace’s side took a 20th-minute lead through Jonelle Filingo, but Claudia van den Heiligenberg levelled for the Dutch five minutes before the break. There were no further goals in an evenly-matched second period, but Emily Zurrer netted after a corner in the ninth minute of extra time to secure the trophy for the North Americans, previous winners in 2008 and 2010.
France claimed third spot overall with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Scotland, Marie-Laure Delie firing all three goals for L’equipe Tricolore.
A Sue Smith brace saw England beat Korea Republic and take fifth place. Despite the group stage defeats to Canada and Scotland, England boss Hope Powell felt the trip to Cyprus was time well spent. "We have been out in Cyprus a bit longer than in previous years and it has been a fantastic week of preparation because it gives us more experience of how demanding a tournament can be. Most importantly, with the World Cup looming, it has given me a chance to look at the players, and it has given these players an opportunity to play,” she said on the English FA website.
In the remaining games, New Zealand were routed 5-0 by the Mexicans in the seventh-place play-off, Italy beat Russia to finish ninth, and Switzerland ended on a winning note with victory over Northern Ireland to finish this year’s Cyprus Cup in 11th place.