Category Archives: Europe

UEFA Champions League: Reasons Why You Should Be Paying Attention

In case you haven’t noticed – and judging by the lack of attention it has received, you haven’t – the UEFA Women’s Champions League cut its field down to 32 last week.

Still don’t care? That’s fair, it doesn’t really have anything to do with America, and most – if not all – of the teams that were forced to play in qualifying won’t be around very long, when they run into the Lyons and Turbine Potsdams of the world.

But one of the reasons why I love and was drawn to international soccer as a youngster was to learn about the world at large; places I’ve never seen, places I’ll never see, but places that we need to understand if we really want to know what is really happening in the 90 percent of the world that most Americans choose to conveniently ignore.

Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains The World is somewhat outdated these days, but a sequel might have more than a chapter or two on the rise of the women’s game. We don’t notice it here because – let’s face it – none of these teams will be playing any American teams any time soon, nor will most of these countries be able to stay on the same field as the United States national team for the next couple of decades.

But women’s soccer is on the rise, albeit slowly. Any every team has a story. And here are some interesting notes from the first round of the 20-12-2013 UEFA Champions’ League.

(For those that don’t know the UEFA format, 22 teams automatically qualified for the Round of 32. They all have stories, too, like Italian champs Torres, Birmingham, and FC Barcelona. Yes, that Barcelona.)

  • FC Zurich didn’t concede a goal in three qualifying games, virtually qualifying when they beat hosts Pomurje of Slovenia (who play in a little town called Beltinci on the Hungarian border) in the first game. But what’s most interesting about Zurich is that Inka Grings scored three goals for them, including the one that finished off Pomurje. Yes, that Inka Grings. After the World Cup, she retired from Germany, but pushes on for Zurich. And is probably enjoying herself.
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Arsenal Stutter While Others Cruise in First Leg of UEFA Women’s Champions League Round of 16

"Great goal, Inka. Too bad FIFA won't notice."

The usual suspects prevented any early surprises from occurring in the first leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League Round of 16, save for Arsenal Ladies Football Club. The most successful women’s side in England has won the Women’s Premier League seven years on the trot and have never failed to advance out of the quarterfinals stage in the UEFA competition. Laura Harvey’s team will have some ground to recover as they lost 2-0 to Spanish champions Rayo Vallecano. Arsenal, who aren’t in season, will have to overcome the deficit at home in two weeks time. (BBC match report here)

Duisburg were tested mightily against Danish champions Fortuna Hjorring. The Danish champions scored off a corner in the 16’ before U-20 Women’s World Cup champion Turid Knaak equalized. 17 year-old defender Luisa Wensing then doubled Duisburg’s lead at the stroke of half time. Kristine Peterson sent the match level yet again at the 54’ but Inka Grings stole the lead back two minutes later. Substitute Mandy Islacker provided Duisburg with a fourth security goal.

Duisburg’s rivals Turbine Potsdam had an absolute cakewalk in comparison. The defending Champions League titleholders beat a pedestrian Austrian side Neulengbach 7-0. Four of the goals were scored in the final 30 minutes and five players found the net, including Anja Mittag and captain Jennifer Zeitz who each scored a brace. The win extends Potsdam’s record to 10 games without a loss in all competitions.

Last season’s Women’s Premier League runners-up Everton continue to make the most of the team’s first soirée in Europe. Mo Marley’s side had a terrific second-half comeback against two-time semifinalists Brondby IF. After falling to the Danish side in the 3’, Everton clawed back scoring four second half goals to essentially seal the match-up. Captain Fara Williams scored from the area in the 56’ before young prospect Toni Duggan doubled the lead. 21 year-old Brooke Chaplen then scored a double in quick succession.

Røa and Zvezda Perm battled out to two draws in the Round of 16 of the tournament last year. They’re halfway to repeating the same feat again as two late, late goals assures a critical game in the second leg in Perm. Elise Hove Thorsnes put the recently dethroned Norwegian champions up in the 87’ before the Russian side equalized in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Linkoping unsettled Sparta Praha 2-0 with goals from Charlotte Rohlin and Jessica Samuelsson.

The French sides also won their matches but with varying degrees of difficulty. Debutantes Juvisy survived a late scare from Italy’s Sassari Torres to take the match 2-1. And Olympique Lyon rolled over Russia’s Rossiyanka 6-1 with a four-goal haul from Lotta Schelin. The newly-arrived Camille Abily also got on the score sheet, as well as old pal Louisa Necib.

 

Additionally, Norway WNT staple Solveig Gulbrandsen has announced her retirement from the game. Despite being eight months removed from the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 29 year-old has cited family reasons for her retirement, although she hasn’t ruled out coaching. The midfielder earned her first cap at 17 and has since appeared 154 times for Norway. She featured in three World Cups, three Euro’s,  and two Olympics, winning gold in 2000. Her match in Norway’s Toppersein this Saturday will be her last.

Gulbrandsen will finish her career with Stabæk Fotball, who supplanted Røa to win the Norweigan title last weekend. The newcomers have snapped Røa’s three-year championship reign.

And the DFB have selected a few standouts from the first 10 rounds of the Frauen-Bundesliga. Frankfurt’s Kerstin Garefrekes has been named player of the preliminary round. Nadine Angerer, Bianca Schmidt, Babett Peter, Lena Goessling, Alexandra Popp, Nadine Kessler, Simone Laudehr, Fatmire Bajramaj, Birgit Prinz and Inka Grings round out the list.

Save for Bad Neuenahr’s Goessling, the list is entirely composed of players from ‘the big three’; Turbine Potsdam, Duisburg and Frankfurt. How a few representatives from Wolfsburg or Bad Neuenahr (namely Martina Müller and Celia da Mbabi Okoyino) don’t merit recognition is puzzling.

Results From the UEFA Women's World Cup Qualifying Playoffs Draw

We now know who will face who in the last stage of UEFA WWC qualifying. The draw was conducted in Nyon, Switzerland this morning. Here’s how it went down:

 

1.) France v. Italy

2.) England v. Switzerland

3.) Ukraine v. Norway

4.) Sweden v. Denmark

 

The first leg of each match will be held over the weekend of September 11/12. The final leg will be held midweek on September15/16.

The four winners will advance to the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The four losers will entered into another play-off.  The loser of Sweden/Denmark will face the loser of England/Switzerland. The loser of Ukraine/Norway will meet the loser of France/Italy. Those matches will be played out on October 2/3 and October 6/7.

The winners of those two matches will then meet October 22/23 and October 27/28 to decide who meets the third-placed CONCACAF team (which will presumably be Mexico or Canada).

 

WPS implications: The first leg of the play-offs falls on the final weekend of the WPS season (September 11). Every country represented in the play-offs save for Ukraine has at least one player currently playing in WPS.

The players have their final play-off game scheduled midweek. The WPS First Round playoff between the third and fourth-placed teams will be held that Sunday. The returning WPS players will presumably be exhausted after playing three critical matches in a matter of seven days. Plus the jet lag.

It’s going to be interesting.

 

A Who's Who of the UEFA WWC Qualifying Playoff Teams (Updated With Bachmann's Inclusion)

Enough talk of the UEFA Champions League draw. There’s only one UEFA draw that matters. Did you know that UEFA President Michel Platini will be conducting the draw for UEFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying playoffs on Monday? The top four seeded teams will be randomly drawn with the bottom four unseeded teams. Four teams will advance to the Women’s World Cup while the fifth will have to jump through more hoops to qualify. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about those eight teams. They’re in order of how they’ll likely be seeded.

 

Association crest

1.) France

How Did They Qualify? With ease. What does a perfect 10-0-0 record with 50 goals scored and 0 goals conceded (!) get you? The first seed, that’s what. Iceland were Las Bleues’ biggest competitors but France took care of them in both matches.

Coach: Bruni Bini (France. Appointed February 2007)

Most Appearances: Defenders Corine Franco and Sandrine Soubeyrand appeared in all 10 matches. Soubeyrand is France’s captain and leads the way in caps with 152. Franco also scored four goals. Goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz played in eight games and recorded a clean sheet in every game. Celine Deville also appeared twice and maintained France’s perfect record.

Top Goal Scorer: Gaetane Thiney tallied 11 goals and striker Marie-Laure Delie scored nine.

WPS: Camille Abily appeared in nine matches, scoring five goals while Sonia Bompastor (playing predominately as a leftback) played in eight games and scored twice.

L’histoire: France’s international record is pretty scant. Las Bleues have only appeared in one Women’s World Cup. Since taking the job in 2007, Coach Bini has guided the team to its most successful era yet.  

1997 Euro’s Group Stage

2001 Euro’s Group Stage

2003 Women’s World Cup – Group Stage

2005 Euro’s Group Stage

2009 Euro’s Quarterfinals

 

Shirt badge/Association crest

2.) Norway

 How did they qualify? Norway had their qualification run wrapped up nearly a month and a half ago but they made it official last weekend. They finished five points ahead of the Netherlands. Norway earned just one draw from a 2-2 result with the Netherlands. Those two goals were the only goals conceded throughout qualification.

Coach: Eli Landsem (Norwegian, appointed 2009). Landsem – Norway’s first female coach – took over the team after Norway’s disappointing run in Euro 2009.

Most Appearances: Goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth, defender Maren Mjelde, midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen and striker Lise Klaveness appeared in all 8 qualifying games.

Top Goal Scorer: Striker Isabell Lehn Herlovsen led the way with nine goals scored.

WPS: Former FC Gold Pride player Solveig Gulbrandsen scored four times while Washington Freedom striker Lene Mykjaland appeared four times, scoring three goals.

History: Norway has got plenty of it. Next to the United States and Germany, Norway is one of the most decorated teams in the history of international women’s soccer. The team hasn’t won a major title in 15 years, however, although they came close in Euro 2005.

1991 Euros Runners Up

1991 Women’s World Cup Runners Up

1993 Euros Champions

1995 Euros Semifinals

1995 Women’s World Cup Champions

1997 Euros Semifinals

1999 Women’s World Cup Semifinals

2001 Euros Semifinals

2003 Women’s World Cup Quarterfinals

2005 Runners up

2007 Women’s World Cup Semifinals

2009 Euros Semifinals, 3rd place

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European Update For Week of June 28 to July 4

Damallsvenskan

LdB Malmo (LdB is an acronym for the lovely-sound ‘Lait de Beaute’ by the way) retain their vice-like grip on the league as thumped Djurgarden 6-3 today. Manon Melis and Aussie Kathryn Gill scored a brace each. They still have not lost in the league and have only suffered one draw in 14 matches. Meanwhile, Goteborg blanked Sunnana 5-0 while Linkoping could only salvage a draw against Tyreso.

The action in Sweden will take a rather long 6 week break for reasons I should really know but don’t. Any Swedish insight?

 

#   Team MP W D L F A D P    
1   LdB Malmö 14 13 1 0 44 11 +33 40    
2   Göteborg FC 14 9 3 2 42 12 +30 30  
3   Linköping 15 8 5 2 24 8 +16 29    
4   Jitex 14 7 1 6 18 25 -7 22  
5   Kristianstad 14 5 4 5 24 23 +1 19    
6 Previous rank: 7 Tyresö 14 5 4 5 18 20 -2 19    
7 Previous rank: 8 Umeå 14 5 2 7 14 21 -7 17    
8 Previous rank: 6 KIF Örebro 13 4 4 5 13 17 -4 16  
9 Previous rank: 10 Djurgården 14 4 1 9 16 25 -9 13    
10 Previous rank: 9 Sunnanå 14 2 5 7 12 32 -20 11  
11 Previous rank: 12 AIK 13 2 3 8 8 23 -15 9  
12 Previous rank: 11 Hammarby 15 2 3 10 12 28 -16 9

 

1.) Manon Melis/Malmo 20 goals

2.) Sara Linden/Goteborg 15 goals

3.) Linnea Liljegard/Goteborg 11 goals

 

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European Update

Italy becomes the first European team to qualify to the UEFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying playoffs as they defeated Finland 3-1, thereby mathematically eliminating Finland (and anyone else) from contention.

 

In Group 1, France emphatically defeated Estonia 6-0 with goals from five different players. This now puts them three points ahead of Iceland. Each team just have two more matches to play and the next one will be against each other in late August.

 

In Group 2, Norway extended their lead over the Netherlands with a 3-0 win over Belarus. Essentially the only way the Netherlands can win the group is by winning their lone match and hoping Norway loses its final two. Considering Norway’s opponents are Slovakia and Macedonia, it’s quite unlikely.

 

The Ukraine missed an opportunity to become leaders of Group 3 as they drew 0-0 with Romania. Group 3 remains the most open as just three points separate Poland, Hungary and Ukraine.

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UEFA WWC Results And What They Mean

I’m briefly delaying the urge to write about England’s magnificent comeback against Spain and how the England Women’s National Team has twice the heart as its male counterparts yet gets half the support. But that will have to wait as there were many other important matches that occurred today too.

 

Group 1

Iceland got a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland to tie themselves with France at the top of Group 1. France plays Croatia tomorrow and could put themselves first again. Remember, they have neither lost nor conceded a goal so far in qualifying. Also, Estonia beat Serbia 1-0 to edge them in the standings. With a total of 10 qualifying games, there is still a lot to play for in this group.

 

Team GP Pts

France 6 18

Iceland 7 18

Estonia 6 9

Serbia 7 7

Northern Ireland 6 3

Croatia 6 1

 

Group 2

The Netherlands essentially needed a result against Norway to stay alive. After Norway found themselves up 2-1, Dutch striker Anouk Dekker gave the Netherlands a life line with an equalizing goal in the 80′. All the Netherlands can do now is win their final game against Belarus on Monday and hope that Norway doesn’t take full points from their two remaining games. Elsewhere, Belarus defeated Slovakia 2-0.  

 

Team GP P

Netherlands 7 14

Norway 5 13

Belarus 5 10

Slovakia 5 3

Macedonia 6 0

 

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A Preview of This Week's European World Cup Qualifying Matches

The boys don’t get to hog all the fun. Some very important games will take place in the next week and a half in the world of women’s soccer. A few European teams could earn their spots in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup (currently only Australia, North Korea, Japan and hosts Germany have officially qualified so far).

Remember: Just four European teams will qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. The top team from each of the 8 groups will advance to the playoffs which will be held in November. The four winners of the two-legged ties will qualify for the World Cup. The 4 losers will enter yet another play-off where the winner would face a CONCACAF nation for qualification. 

Here’s a quick preview of the eight UEFA Qualifying groups:

 

Group 1

France have clearly been the class of the qualifying so far. Les Bleues have won all 6 matches they have played with (get this) 33 goals for and 0 against. That’s over 5 goals per game. They face Croatia on Sunday who have only managed 1 point so far so expect another rout. Iceland is still mathematically alive and they face both Northern Ireland and Croatia this week.

 

Group 2

The Netherlands have a narrow 1 point lead over Norway.  In probably the tastiest match-up of all, the two teams will meet each other on Saturday. Norway have not yet conceded a goal in qualifying. Holland absolutely need to win this game as Norway will still have a game in hand to play against Belarus. A Dutch loss or draw would likely see them miss out on the World Cup. Norway have never not qualified for a Women’s World Cup, by the way.

 

Group 3

Undefeated Denmark also have a very slim 1 point lead over Scotland with Greece also somewhat still in it. The Danes will face the Greeks Saturday. Scotland and Denmark will then meet the following week in what will be Denmark’s final game in qualifying.

 

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Abbreviated European Update

France

The 35th French Feminine Division season came to a close today. Olympique Lyonnais maintained their ever-so-slight one-point lead over Juvisy to claim their fourth straight title.

Juvisy held on to the lead for most of the season before Lyon began gaining some momentum during their journey through the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Despite losing in the Final to Turbine Potsdam, Lyon have proven that they are still one of the best teams in the world of women’s football.

Lyon finished on 78 points, Juvisy on 77, Paris Saint Germain finished third on 74, Montpellier on 70. Then there was a huge gap as Nord Allier finished with 53 points. The next six teams finished with either 40 or 30 points each.

Lyon and Juvisy will each appear in the 2010-2011 UEFA Women’s Champions League. Montigny-le-Bretonneux and Soyaux are relegated.

Stade Briochin’s Eugenie Le Sommer was top scorer with 18 goals. She also won the Player of the Year Award. Lyon’s Lara Dickenmann and Katia were second with 14 goals each.

 

Damallsvenskan

LdB Malmo has extended their lead over second-place Goteborg  to 8 points with a 4-0 win over Hammarby. Manon Melis continues to be in excellent form as she scored another two goals. The Dutchwoman is currently the top goal-scorer with 17 goals. Malmo have won 11 matches and have drawn just one.

Hammarby and AIK continue to struggle and have won just one game and drawn three each.

 

Norway

It remains extremely close in Norway as just four points separate the top five teams. Roa is on top with 24, Stabaek is on 23 and then Arna-Bjorner, Kolbotn and Lillestrom are all on 21.

 

Russia

Rossiyaka remains perfect in 11 matches. Zvezda Perm is on second with 24 points. Rossiyaka’s Tatyana Skotnikov has scored nearly a goal a game with 10 goals so far.

European Update

It’s delayed but here it is as promised. It’s Finals week so please excuse the abbreviated version :

 

Women’s Premier League

Again, Arsenal won their seventh consecutive league title after a 4-2 win oer Everton. Arsenal got hot at the right time and stormed to the title, overtaking Leeds Carnegie who are currently on second. The top two clubs in the league qualify for the Champions League but because Leeds Carnegie will not be in the Super League next season, the slot will be given away to either Chelsea or Everton. The season finishes this week with everything to play for for these two teams. Here’s the table:

1   Arsenal 20 18 1 1 72 18 +54 55  
2 Previous rank: 3 Leeds Carnegie 21 15 2 4 50 13 +37 47    
3 Previous rank: 4 Chelsea 21 15 1 5 58 26 +32 46  
4 Previous rank: 2 Everton 20 14 2 4 63 19 +44 44  
5   Sunderland 22 12 1 9 36 35 +1 37  
6   Doncaster Belles 22 9 7 6 36 37 -1 34  
7 Previous rank: 8 Blackburn Rovers 20 6 3 11 26 43 -17 21  
8 Previous rank: 7 Millwall Lionesses 22 6 3 13 24 43 -19 21  
9 Previous rank: 10 Watford 22 4 5 13 23 60 -37 17  
10 Previous rank: 9 Birmingham City 20 4 4 12 20 36 -16 16  
11   Nottingham Forest 20 3 4 13 15 47 -32 13  
12   Bristol Academy 22 3 1 18 12 58 -46 10

 

Frauen Bundesliga

The season’s all wrapped up but hey look at that, basement-dwellers Tennis Borussia managed just their second win of the season on the final day. Here’s how the final table looks:

1   Turbine Potsdam 22 19 2 1 84 15 +69 59  
2   FCR Duisburg 22 17 3 2 73 16 +57 54  
3   FFC Frankfurt 22 17 0 5 84 29 +55 51  
4   Bayern München 22 12 3 7 42 35 +7 39  
5   Wolfsburg 22 11 4 7 45 30 +15 37  
6   Bad Neuenahr 22 10 2 10 35 36 -1 32  
7   Hamburger SV 22 8 4 10 31 51 -20 28  
8   USV Jena 22 6 3 13 31 60 -29 21    
9   Saarbrücken 22 5 4 13 30 54 -24 19  
10   Essen-Schönebeck 22 3 7 12 25 58 -33 16  
11   Freiburg 22 4 1 17 14 53 -39 13  
12   Tennis Borussia 22 2 3 17 17 74 -57 9    

Topscorers

Player Team G PG FG
I. Grings FCR Du… 30 2 7
K. Garefrekes FFC Fr… 19 0 5
A. Mittag Turbin… 17 0 5
F. Bajramaj Turbin… 16 0 7
Genoveva Añonma USV Jena 16 0 11
C. Okoyino Bad Ne… 15 0 8
C. Pohlers FFC Fr… 15 0 3
M. Müller Wolfsburg 14 0 8
B. Prinz FFC Fr… 12 3 4
N. Kessler Turbin… 11 0 3
P. Wimbersky FFC Fr… 11 0 1
J. Zietz Turbin… 9 3 2
C. Uwak Saarbr… 9 0 5
J. Wich Turbin… 9 0 1
V. Bürki Bayer… 9 0 1

 

Feminine Division

In France, the title race remains perhaps the tighest of any in Europe. Juvisy keep a slender hold on first over PSG.

 

#   Team MP W D L F A D P    
1   Juvisy 19 15 1 3 50 18 +32 65  
2   PSG 19 14 3 2 58 7 +51 64  
3   Olympique Lyon 17 14 1 2 71 11 +60 60  
4   Montpellier 18 12 3 3 39 16 +23 57  
5   Nord Allier 19 8 4 7 25 28 -3 47  
6   Saint-Étienne 19 8 2 9 23 36 -13 45  
7   Hénin-Beaumont 19 6 4 9 25 40 -15 41  
8   Toulouse 19 6 2 11 23 45 -22 39    
9   Stade Briochin 18 4 2 12 33 65 -32 32  
10   Soyaux 18 3 4 11 10 30 -20 31  
11   La Roche-sur-Yon 18 4 1 13 16 47 -31 31  
12   Montigny-le-Bretonneux 19 3 1 15 14 44 -30 29  

 

Elsewhere, Malmo keeps their slender one point lead over Goteburg in Sweden. Only one of the clubs sitting in spots 3-7 won their match so there was a lot of movement in the Damallsvenkan table.

In Norway, Lillestrom also maintains a two point lead over Stabaek.