The Best Of Women’s Football In 2014

As another action-packed year draws to a close, 2014 will surely be remembered for records falling, intense emotions, eye-catching triumphs, thrilling qualifiers and a raft of newcomers securing a berth at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, along with various established big names.
Despite the success of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the men’s game was not alone in capturing the imagination this year, as their female counterparts made plenty of headlines of their own. In particular, the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada proved to be excellent appetisers ahead of next summer’s main event, with the global showcase looming ever closer over the horizon. now casts a glance back over the all the thrills, spills and stand-out moments of the last 12 months – while wishing you the very best during the festive period.

Angerer makes history
The year could hardly have started better for Nadine Angerer, with the German international picking up the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award in Zurich after topping the vote ahead of USA’s Abby Wambach and Brazil star Marta. Highly regarded in the game, Angerer was a worthy winner and became the first ever goalkeeper to triumph in the women’s category – as well as the oldest at 35 years of age. Her international coach Silvia Neid was honoured too, being crowned for a second time as FIFA World Coach of the Year for women’s football. “It’s a huge honour,” commented the Germany tactician.

Silverware for France
France underlined their status as one of the favourites for Canada 2015 before they had even stamped their ticket, overcoming England 2-0 in the Cyprus Cup final to win the competition for the second time since 2012. Both sides went into the tournament eager to shine under new coaches, and it was Philippe Bergeroo’s charges who eventually came out on top, having downed Australia 3-2 and the Netherlands 3-0 during the group stage, although they also drew 1-1 with Scotland. As for England, they clinched their showpiece berth thanks to a trio of wins, seeing off Italy 2-0, Finland 3-0 and Canada 2-0.

Germany’s Algarve adventure
France were not the only team to prosper, of course. While Les Bleues were turning heads in Cyprus, Germany continued their superb run of results in the Algarve Cup, and their 2014 vintage proved especially formidable. Neid’s troops prevailed courtesy of four consecutive wins, scoring 12 goals and conceding just one as they sunk China PR, Iceland and Norway before a 3-0 final triumph against Japan, when Nadine Kessler, Anja Mittag and Dzsenifer Marozsan all hit the target. In contrast, USA struggled to find their rhythm and had to make do with seventh place after failing to win any of their three matches. That led to coach Tom Sermanni making way at the start of April, and Jill Ellis being charged with overseeing improvements.

Double double
Wolfsburg’s successful defence of their UEFA Women’s Champions League crown owed more than a little to Martina Muller, who added the final twist in a breathtaking final against Swedish rivals Tyreso when she pounced ten minutes from time to seal a 4-3 win. That goal also secured Die Wölfinnen’s entry to a very exclusive club, as the team from Lower Saxony became only the third side to record back-to-back triumphs in the competition. Wolfsburg had plenty more to celebrate too, with coach Ralf Kellermann likewise steering them to a second consecutive domestic title – and, as in Europe, they were made to battle hard for their success. Wolfsburg went into their final fixture against Frankfurt lying second behind their opponents and needing victory to clinch the title, and more than 12,000 supporters were on hand to witness the hosts take a first-half lead via Verena Faisst. Frankfurt put themselves back in charge eight minutes from time, however, when Kozue Ando levelled the scores, but the drama was not over yet. In the final minute, and with Frankfurt so close to the finish line, Alexandra Popp wrenched the trophy back into Wolfsburg’s hands.

Domestic quests
Titles were decided far and wide in 2014, and not least in France, where Lyon claimed their eighth successive Ligue 1 crown with one game to spare in the 2013/14 season. OL reigned supreme in the French Cup too, beating Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 in a hard-fought showpiece in Le Mans. Elsewhere, Brescia savoured their first ever Italian championship win, and Rosengard defended their title in Sweden, Marta and Co making sure of their triumph with two matches remaining. Over in the USA, meanwhile, the second season of the NWSL ended with Kansas City taking over from Portland Thorns as champions, the Kansas outfit edging Seattle Reign 2-1 in the decider.

Little Nadeshiko on top of the world

It was not only the senior players who enjoyed a taste of glory this year, and at the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, it was Japan who emerged as deserved victors. Relying on their traditional strengths, the Little Nadeshiko swept to the title by winning all their games and conceding just a single goal, signing off in style by beating Spain 2-0 in the final.

Germany’s vengeance

Germany exited that tournament in the group stage, but it was a different story altogether at the U-20 Women’s World Cup. Two years after narrowly falling short in the showpiece, Maren Meinert’s side reclaimed the global title on Canadian soil, the European heavyweights overcoming every obstacle placed in their path thanks to their trademark attacking swagger. Germany were pushed hard along the way, edging epic games against France and USA most notably, before they rounded off their triumphant run against an impressive Nigeria team.

Old and new faces
Winning the World Cup is an unforgettable experience at any level, and the cream of women’s football will look to follow in the footsteps of Germany’s U-20s next summer and claim the ultimate prize in the senior game. The finals line-up is now complete after the qualifiers reached their climax this year, with the road to Canada 2015 featuring several dramatic encounters and games decided in added time or beyond the 90 regulation minutes. The high-quality fare gave spectators plenty to enjoy and also shone a spotlight on various new talents – including young forward Vivianne Miedema, whose play-off goals against Italy helped the Netherlands seal their finals spot. They will be one of 24 sides in the newly expanded tournament, making their first appearance along with fellow newcomers Ecuador, Switzerland, Spain, Costa Rica, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Thailand. Numerous old regulars will be back too, with Germany, France, England and Sweden winning all ten of their qualifiers while racking up 200 goals between them. In Asia, meanwhile, Japan evoked memories of triumphs past by emerging victorious at the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

Outstanding longevity
USA defender Christie Rampone won her 300th international cap when her side came up against Mexico in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. In doing so, she became only the second player to reach that staggering milestone after former team-mate Kristine Lilly. Rampone is not about to hang up her boots yet either, and next year the three-time Olympic champion will dispute her fifth Women’s World Cup.

Candidates await their fate
Named as Best Women’s Player in Europe after clinching the double with Wolfsburg, Nadine Kessler is now waiting to learn whether she will add the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award to her collection. The Germany midfielder is a candidate for the prestigious honour along with USA’s Abby Wambach and Marta of Brazil, while Ralf Kellermann (Wolfsburg), Maren Meinert (Germany U-20s) and Norio Sasaki (Japan) have all been shortlisted in the coach’s category. The women’s game is also represented in the FIFA Puskás Award, which singles out the best goal of the year. Not content with having beaten the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa to the final list of three contenders, Irish international Stephanie Roche could yet become the first woman to walk away with the prize.

Glitz and glamour in Ottawa
The year climaxed just as it began in the world of women’s football – with a dash of elegance. All eyes were on Ottawa at the start of December as the Canadian Museum of Histo

Culled from Leadership Newspapers

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