Preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ have begun in earnest with international matches taking place across various part of the globe this week, ahead of next month’s Algarve and Cyprus Cups. The action was headlined by a heavyweight tussle between USA and France amid several matches across Europe, while Australia, New Zealand and Korea DPR also did battle.

*Les Bleues clip USA’s wings *
World No2 USA started the year in modest fashion with a 2-0 defeat against France in front of a capacity 15,000 crowd in Lorient last Sunday. Second-half goals from Eugenie Le Sommer and Jessica Houara ensured France secured a morale-boosting victory; their first against the Stars & Stripes in 17 attempts. Abby Wambach spurned an opportunity to pull the USA back into the contest with Sarah Bouhaddi saving her spot-kick. The USA were without a handful of key personnel due to injury - Christie Rampone (back), midfielder Megan Rapinoe (knee) and forward Sydney Leroux (ankle) – and coach Jill Ellis was keen to point to the bigger picture ahead of Canada 2015. “We’re in the process of trying to get answers and playing different players and we knew France would be a fantastic test for us,” she said. “At this point, we’re in the process of evaluating and also building, and that’s why we play strong teams, to test ourselves.”

*Matildas remain perfect in tri-series
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Australia came up trumps in a three-match series this week collecting two wins from as many outings over Korea DPR and host nation New Zealand. The Matildas’ first matches for nearly nine months, and the first since coach Alen Stajcic was appointed on a full-time basis, provided promising portents ahead of a onerous challenge at Canada 2015. The Aussies secured a tough 2-1 win over the always resilient Korea DPR, before maintaining a two-decade unbeaten streak against New Zealand with a 3-2 win despite a second-half double from Football Ferns’ Sarah Gregorius. The series opened with a 1-1 draw between New Zealand Korea DPR last Sunday.

*Euro contestants joust
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It was a busy week for Spain which concluded with a 2-1 defeat of Belgium on Wednesday. The prolific Sonia Bermudez grabbed the winner midway through the second period, after Marta Torrejon had cancelled out an early strike from the visiting Belgians. Just 24 hours earlier, Spain twice went ahead through goals by Alexia Putellas and Priscila Borja only for Austria to twice draw level in Murcia.

After becoming the first European nation to qualify for Canada 2015, the year began in modest fashion for Switzerland who slipped to successive defeats in Portugal. The home side collected 2-1 and 1-0 winning margins on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, with the Swiss boasting only a lone goal from Fabienne Humm to show for their visit. Meanwhile, European heavyweights Sweden seem in fine form as goals from Lotta Schelin, Sofia Jakobsson and Nilla Fischer eased the Germany 2011 semi-finalists to a 3-0 win over home side Finland.

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