Big two advance to Rio
February saw CONCACAF qualifying for Rio 2016 take place and it is a familiar pair of names that will represent the region after Canada and reigning gold-medallists USA collected the top two berths. USA won the tournament final 2-0 over their North American rivals, with the pair continuing an Olympic rivalry that most recently included a famous seven-goal semi-final thriller at London 2012. The eight-nation US-based tournament was also notable for the group-stage exit of Mexico, while Costa Rica reached the semi-finals to continue their impressive form from the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. Significant also was Morgan Brian’s award as player of the tournament, thus continuing the rapid rise of the youngest USA player in the Canada 2015 Final.
The final three slots for the 12-team Rio field will be decided over the coming fortnight. Two tickets are up for grabs in Asia with a strong six-nation competition hosted by London 2012 silver medallists Japan, concluding on 9 March. Later that same day one of four teams in a mini-tournament - Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland – will book their passage as Europe’s final representative.
Bayern seek dominance
Numerous European leagues resumed over the past month or so following a mid-season break scheduled to avoid the depths of winter. Perhaps the most notable league to recommence was Germany's, home to the reigning European club champions 1.FFC Frankfurt – a traditional powerhouse in women’s football. However, it is Bayern Munich who are on looking to build a new hegemony, with the Bavarians now on track for a second successive title thanks to a ten-point lead over Frankfurt just past the midway point of the season.
The final day of last month saw fresh benchmarks set in Australia as new W-League club Melbourne City won the championship in their maiden season. And they did so in style winning all 14 matches, albeit one was on penalties. Buoyed by star recruits Kim Little and Jess Fishlock, as well as a host of local internationals, City wrapped up the title with a classy 4-1 win over Sydney FC in the championship decider.
Ahead of a massive month for development across the globe, February’s activities were highlighted by the visit of two richly experienced former international coaches to nations that are eager to further build upon their foundations in women’s football. Former England manager Hope Powell visited Namibia where up to three dozen coaches participated in a FIFA Women’s Coaching Course in Windhoek. The Namibia FA has put significant resources into the women’s game off the field over recent years, while on the field they hosted the 2014 CAF African Women’s Championship, securing a famous win against Zambia in the process. Meanwhile in Belize, the expertise offered by Mexican Andrea Rodebaugh was similarly valued as the nation’s next generation of female coaches undertook an intense five-day coaching workshop.
Meanwhile, some of the globe’s most impressive female match officials were named to participate in this week’s annual Algarve Cup. Eighteen referees and assistant referees from various parts of the globe were selected for the prestigious tournament, which is also part of the preparation for the prospective candidate referees and assistant referees for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016.
100 – USA defender Becky Sauerbrunn made her 100th international appearance, remarkably becoming the 35th Stars and Stripes player to do so.
“It is one of the toughest tournaments that any of us will ever go through. If we have success, it can change women’s football in Australia completely." Australia captain Lisa De Vanna on this week’s AFC Women’s Olympic Football Tournament qualifiers.