There was something familiar about how the year in international women's football unfolded in 2007 – but the club game suggested something new was afoot.
There was something familiar about how the year in international women's football unfolded – but the club game suggested something new was afoot.
Before the FIFA Women's World Cup in China, there were doubts whether Germany could repeat the results that had won them the trophy in 2003, not to mention the last four UEFA European Women's Championships. Results had been mixed, defender Steffi Jones had quit international football due to injury and stalwart goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg confined to the bench for similar reasons.
But when the Germans opened the competition with a tournament record 11-0 defeat of Argentina, fears began to be allayed. England, in their first finals in 12 years, then held the champions 0-0, but both were to reach the quarter-finals, as did Norway though Denmark and 2003 runners-up Sweden fell. The United States then proved too strong for England, but Norway ousted the hosts and Germany eased past North Korea to set up an all-European semi-final, which the holders won 3-0. Brazil shocked the US 4-0, with Umeå IK striker Marta scoring twice to take her tournament tally to seven, but she was shut out in the decider as Germany triumphed 2-0 with World Cup all-time leading striker Birgit Prinz and Simone Laudehr on target. Rottenberg's replacement Nadine Angerer completed the tournament without conceding.
Road to Finland
There was consolation for Sweden as they beat Denmark in a two-legged play-off to join Germany and Norway in the 2008 Olympics, but the real focus is now a year hence to UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ in Finland. Predictably, Germany are closest to claiming one of the expanded eleven finals berths alongside the hosts with five straight wins, but England, Sweden, Norway and group rivals Ukraine and Denmark also have 100 per cent records.
England's national-team exploits were even eclipsed in club competition, as Arsenal LFC became the first side to win the UEFA Women's Cup outside Germany or Sweden. They were rank outsiders in April's final against two-time winners Umeå, especially with star player Kelly Smith suspended for both legs. But after withstanding an onslaught led by Marta in the first game in Sweden, Arsenal won 1-0 with a late Alex Scott goal, and they held out a week later in Borehamwood for a 0-0 draw which secured the crown. However, their defence is already over after a quarter-final defeat by debutants Olympique Lyonnais, who look like giving Umeå a real test in the last four. The other tie matches two-time champions 1. FFC Frankfurt with Italy's first semi-finalists, ASD CF Bardolino Verona. Frankfurt have also lost Jones to retirement as she presides the organising committee for the 2011 World Cup in Germany.
That nation's dominance continued in the youth game as they retained the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Iceland thanks to extra-time wins against France in the last four and first-time finalists England. The holders are again safely through to the second qualifying round in the race to France next July, while Germany are also among 16 teams to have reached that stage in the inaugural UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship. Only four teams will compete in the first finals in May.
2007 roll of honour
UEFA Women's Cup
Winners: Arsenal LFC (ENG)
Runners-up: Umeå IK (SWE)
Semi-finalists: Brøndby IF (DEN), Kolbotn IL (NOR)
UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship (Iceland)
Semi-finalists: Norway, France
FIFA Women's World Cup (China)
Third: United States