August 2016 was undoubtedly headlined by the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 as Germany collected a first-ever gold medal. But, as ever, there was plenty going on elsewhere in women’s football including UEFA Women’s Champions League action, Norwegian football royalty crowned and far-reaching work done by FIFA’s development department.
Germany’s golden night in Rio
Women’s football at Rio 2016 will long be remembered for its colour and quality. The tightness of the competition added further evidence of the growing quality and depth across the world. The eight knockout-stage matches were all tense affairs, producing just 12 goals. World champions USA, who won gold in four of the five previous tournaments held to date, suffered a shock early elimination at the quarter-final stage against Sweden on penalties. With 2000 winners Norway not participating, a new name on the roll of honour was assured. That fell the way of Germany, who defeated Sweden 2-1 in a final which featured teams who finished second and third in their groups respectively. Canada, who won four games straight before a semi-final defeat against Germany, collected bronze for the second successive time with a 2-1 win over heartbroken hosts Brazil.
A final farewell
For all the joy of Germany’s win in Rio, there was a slightly sad tinge to the celebrations with three key national team players announcing their international retirements. Annike Krahn and Melanie Behringer joined Saskia Bartusiak in bidding farewell to the international arena. Meanwhile, retiring from the game altogether was France’s stylish midfield architect Louisa Cadamuro (nee Necib), who bade farewell following France’s Rio 2016 exit. Though still only 29, Cadamuro, who married Algerian international Liassine Cadamuro in June, enjoyed a trophy-laden career with Lyon while her international tally included 148 caps and 38 goals.
Ada crowned Europe’s best
Norway's Ada Hegerberg may not have had the pleasure of competing at Rio 2016, but it was still a memorable month for the prolific striker after she was collected the UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe Award. A clear winner of the golden boot in France with champions Lyon, Hegerberg was crowned ahead of France and Portland Thorns midfielder Amandine Henry, and also Germany and newly-signed Lyon midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan.
European aspirants out of the blocks
The long path to European club supremacy has commenced with the preliminary stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League taking place ahead of the 1 June final in Cardiff next year. Thirty-six teams competed in 54 matches to determine the nine group winners who advanced to the Round of 32, which commences in early October. Norway's Avaldsnes were the only one of six debutant clubs to make it through, while Belarus side Minsk and Apollon of Cyprus impressed by advancing with a match to spare. Also progressing were Breidablik (Iceland), Medyk Konin (Poland), FC Zurich (Switzerland), SFK 2000 Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), BIIK-Kazygurt (Kazakhstan) and FC Twente (Netherlands).
Yet another month has been marked by the sheer diversity of nations benefitting from FIFA’s development activities for women’s football. Aside from numerous Live Your Goals events, there were women’s football coaching courses conducted in Burkina Faso, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fiji, South Africa and Tahiti. FIFA instructors were also on hand for women’s football administration courses in Uruguay and India. The latter was particularly beneficial ahead of a national league commencing in the globe’s second biggest nation later this year. Just some of the many topics covered included marketing, leadership skills, managing budgets and developing sponsorship proposals. Support was also provided to Mauritania where a 12-team league was established.
1 – One for the trivia buffs in the years to come will be the identity of the players involved when a fourth substitute was used in a FIFA tournament for the first time. That honour went to USA’s Lindsey Horan, who replaced Mallory Pugh in the Rio 2016 quarter-final against Sweden, and follows a recent change that allows a fourth substitute to be used in the event of extra time.
“It’s the icing on the cake for me. I’ve had an amazing career and won so many titles, but the fact that Germany have now won their first gold medal tops everything.”
Germany’s gold-medal winning coach Silvia Neid reflects on her 11 years as national team coach