Race to the Netherlands gathers pace
The last week of November saw the resumption of qualifying for the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 and produced several tight, and some not-so-tight, encounters. Group 7 favourites England, fresh from a 0-0 friendly draw in Germany, were among the teams to find it tough, relying on a solitary Jill Scott goal to see off stubborn visitors from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Russia also found goals hard to come by, eking out a 1-0 win over Hungary after a 0-0 draw with Turkey that further damaged their hopes of emerging from a section dominated by the Germans. Others found it more straightforward, though, with France seeing off Albania 6-0, while Switzerland and Spain returned from Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland respectively with 8-1 and 3-0 wins. The biggest scoreline of all, though, was racked up by Group 1 leaders Scotland, who maintained their 100 per cent record with a thumping 10-0 victory over Macedonia.
Africa will be represented by Nigeria and Ghana for the fourth FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in succession after this dominant duo maintained their grip in the recent continental qualifiers. Yet although the tournament, which began in May, concluded this month with a familiar outcome, the Falconets and Black Princesses didn’t have it all their own way. South Africa proved tough opponents for Nigeria in the final round before going down 3-1 on aggregate, while Ghana were held to a 2-2 first-leg draw by Ethiopia before their superior class told in the return. The individual stars included Chinwendu Ihezuo, a veteran of Nigeria’s run to the U-20 Women’s World Cup final in Canada last year, who finished joint-top scorer with six goals.
Korea DPR Asia’s U-17 queens
Winners of the inaugural edition in 2008, Korea DPR will head to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year as Asian champions. That status was secured after they capped an impressive 2015 AFC U-16 Women's Championship campaign in Wuhan, China PR by beating holders Japan 1-0 in a tight final. Ri Hae-Yon scored the decisive goal as the Koreans recaptured the continental title for the first time since 2007, and the talented striker also earned the Most Valuable Player award for her sparkling performances across the tournament.
Champions crowned in Asia, Russia
Though a few championship races concluded over the past month, none had a more dramatic climax than Korea Republic’s WK-League's. Icheon Daekyo were seconds away from dethroning Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels only to concede a 123rd-minute equaliser in the play-off final, with a subsequent defeat on penalties making it three titles-in-a-row for Incheon. In Japan, meanwhile, NTV Beleza – the Nadeshiko League’s most successful club – ended a five-year championship drought by topping the standings for a 14th time. There was a familiar name inscribed on the Russian Women’s Football Championship trophy too, with Zvezda wrapping up a domestic double with their fifth league title and second in succession.
Ferroviaria lift the Libertadores
There is a new name on South America’s top female club prize after Ferroviaria became the third Brazilian side to claim the Copa Libertadores Femenina. The Araraquara outfit maintained their unblemished record in this year’s tournament by beating 2012 champions Colo Colo 3-1 in the final, with Tabatha notching two of their goals. The Chilean runners-up remain the only non-Brazilians to have won the Libertadores thus far, with Santos and Sao Jose the other sides to have claimed the continental crown.
Done deals in USA
While USA’s National Women’s Soccer League players enjoy a well-earned break, its clubs have been busier than ever preparing their squads for next season. Among the eye-catching deals taking place have been Western New York Flash’s capture of New Zealand stalwart Abby Erceg and Canada’s Adriana Leon, along with USA defender Whitney Engen’s move to Boston Breakers. Seattle Reign have been busier than most, and while the addition of Sweden midfielder Antonia Goransson and talented Dutch forward Manon Melis should provide fresh impetus, it is the club’s re-signing news that has most excited fans. That is because the club, NWSL Shield winners in 2015, have retained seven key players, most notably the league’s 2014 MVP and all-time leading scorer, Kim Little.
No fewer than 12 countries played host to Live Your Goals events during November, with Lithuania, St. Kitts and Nevis, Wales, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Tahiti, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Jordan and Tanzania building on the programme’s erstwhile successes. Girls’ festivals were also held in Maldives, Solomon Islands, Singapore, Egypt, Comoros, Montenegro, Vanuatu, Afghanistan, Samoa and Uruguay, where the next generation of female players all enjoyed games and benefited from expert coaching.
493.6 million – The amount, in Canadian dollars, of economic activity generated by the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™ and FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014, as revealed by a report earlier this month. This impressive figure exceeded preliminary projections by a whopping 46 per cent.
“It wasn’t as if I was doing something I shouldn’t, something scandalous. I told him where to go. That’s the way I am. I have a lot of character. If I’d just bowed my head, none of this would have happened.”
Maria Elena Valverde, a pioneering figure in Costa Rican women’s football, on divorcing a husband who disapproved of her involvement in the game.