July was dominated by preparations for the Olympic Football Tournament in Rio de Janeiro (3-20 August), but the month did produce a champion of its own, as France became the newest winners of the UEFA European Women's U-19 Championship. Furthermore, UEFA also published its ten-name shortlist for the 2016 UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe award.
FIFA.com looks back over another exciting month for the women’s game.
France crowned U-19 European champions
France became the newest winners of the Women's U-19 EURO courtesy of a 2-1 win against Spain in the final in Slovakia. Les Bleuets led at the break through Grace Geyoro’s effort, before a long rain delay meant the start of the second half was delayed.
Nahikari Garcia spurned an opportunity to equalise after 53 minutes when she missed a penalty, before Marie-Antoinette Katoto (66’) struck to put the French firmly in control. Spain, who have now lost the last three finals in this competition, could only manage a consolation effort through Lucia Garcia (84’).
In the group stage, Switzerland had upset the odds to beat Germany, one of the tournament favourites, 4-2 and reach the semi-finals. Their run was ended in a 3-1 loss to the eventual champions, although the Swiss impressed and even led 1-0 at the interval.
The second semi-final, meanwhile, was a game for the ages. The Netherlands twice had the lead, only for Spain’s Sandra Hernandez to peg them back on each occasion. Hernandez then made it 4-2 in the 81st minute to complete her hat-trick and put Spain out of reach. Michelle Hendriks grabbed a third for the Netherlands in the closing stages, but Spain held on. Defending champions Sweden, meanwhile, did not make the final cut after losing out to Austria in qualification.
Olympic Games draws nearer
For the 12 teams participating in Rio in August (except Colombia, the only side not to arrange a single warm-up game) July was largely used to get body and mind in shape for the tournament, and since arriving in Brazil, many countries have already arranged friendlies with teams in other groups.
The most intense preparations have been undertaken by China PR, in Group E in Rio, who have played three friendly matches in 13 days. After 1-0 defeats to France and Canada, the Chinese managed a 3-0 victory over Zimbabwe, themselves drawn in Group F. Host nation Brazil, meanwhile, put on a show for over 10,000 fans in Fortaleza by beating Australia 3-1.
After Katrin Gorry was dismissed for two yellow cards, the Matildas were a player down for almost the entire second half, and only then was their resistance broken. “Playing against them for 40 minutes with a player less makes it a little difficult,” said Australia coach Alen Stajcic, “but the players need to learn how to deal with situations like that”.
In Rio, South Africa slumped to a 4-1 loss to New Zealand. It was a disappointing result considering the Banyana Banyana’s impressive showing in losing a friendly to world champions USA, for whom Crystal Dunn had netted the winner after 35 minutes in Chicago. The Americans appear to be approaching top form ahead of the Olympics, meanwhile. On 22 July they dispatched Costa Rica 4-0, with Dunn, Mallory Pugh, Carli Lloyd and Christen Press on target.
Elsewhere, Sweden warmed up for the tournament in style with an ultimately convincing 3-0 win against 2015 World Cup runners-up Japan, who missed out on qualifying for Rio 2016. Lotta Schelin broke the deadlock for the Swedes with 15 minutes remaining, before Fridolina Rolfo and Olivia Schough made the result safe.
July’s biggest winners were Germany, who celebrated a staggering 11-0 success against Ghana. The Germans were already 9-0 up at the break thanks to four goals by Anja Mittag and one apiece from Dzsenifer Maroszan, Alexandra Popp, Saskia Bartusiak and Sara Dabritz, as well as an own goal by Cynthia Abobea.
After the interval Mandy Islacker and Maroszan rounded off the scoring. “In the first half our concentration was very good and we created a lot of chances,” said Popp post-game. “After half time our energy levels dropped a little, but we’re confident and we can head to Brazil with a good feeling about how we’re playing.”
Change afoot in England
In England, the women’s football calendar is set for something of a shake-up. From 2017/18, the FA Women’s Super League will start in September and end in May, instead of lasting from spring until autumn, as is currently the case. The reason for this is so that players can prepare better for the FIFA Women’s World Cups™.
Moreover, they can also maintain pre-tournament fitness in the American NWSL, since the English and North American domestic schedules will no longer overlap. “I think the positives effects of the change outweigh the negatives,” said Mark Sampson, coach of England’s senior team. “The goal is to make sure we do all that we can to be successful. We need the best players and the best support to grow and develop our team.”
Women’s European footballer of the Year
The shortlist for the UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe has been revealed, with Camille Abily, Amandine Henry, Louisa Cadamuro (formerly Necib), Eugenie Le Sommer, Wendie Renard (all France), Ada Hegerberg (Norway), Amel Majri (Tunisia), Dzsenifer Maroszan, Alexandra Popp (both Germany) and Saki Kumagai (Japan) up for the prize. On 5 August the list will be whittled down to three names, with the winner to be decided on 25 August. The three previous holders of the accolade – Nadine Angerer, Nadine Kessler and Celia Sasic) all hail from Germany and have since retired from playing.
100 - In the USA’s 1-0 win over South Africa, American goalkeeper Hope Solo became the first player in history to keep 100 international clean sheets. She achieved the feat in what was her 197th appearance for her country and her 150th win in US colours.
What they said
“We’ve analysed every opponent and all the players know what’s in front of them. We can definitely say we’ll try to be competitive.” Shradeck Mlauzi, Zimbabwe head coach ahead of the country’s maiden Olympic Games appearance.