While the men’s sides are getting preseason wrapped up, the women’s national teams are making noise in Europe and the West Coast of America. Over in the Netherlands, UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 is taking place, and the one team in red-hot roaring form at the moment are Mark Sampson’s Lionesses of England.
England started the tournament in flying fashion against rivals Scotland in a 6-0 shellacking at Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht. Arsenal’s Jodie Taylor scored a hat trick in the 11th, 26th and 53rd minutes. Also scoring were Birmingham City’s Ellen White (32′), Gunner Jordan Nobbs (87′) and Barcelona’s Toni Duggan (90′ + 3′) At Breda’s Rat Verlegh Stadium, the Lioness scored a famous 2-0 win over Spain through Taylor (86′) and a second minute goal from Chelsea’s Fran Kirby. The Lionesses are expected to top Group D, barring some surprising results from their next opponents Portugal and Spain against Scotland. Both matches are scheduled for July 27.
The same cannot be said of Olivier Echouafni’s France. Les Bleus have failed to follow up on their SheBelieves Cup scalp and have struggled in the Euros in Group C. They eked out a 1-0 win over Iceland at the Koning Willem II Stadion in Tilburg on July 18 through 86th minute heroics from Eugenie Le Sommer. But in Utrecht on July 22, they drew 1-1 with Austria, with Amandine Henry’s 51st minute goal offsetting a stunning 27th minute strike from Lisa Makas. The result means that the July 26 match with Switzerland in Breda is an elimination game that puts Echouafni’s job on the line, one would imagine.
Steffi Jones was always going to have big shoes to fill in taking over for Silvia Neid as Germany’s manager. Those shoes may have been too big, as seen in their scoreless draw with Sweden to open Group B on July 17 in Breda. The DFB-Frauen did not impress either in their 2-1 over Italy. Josephine Henning (19′) amd Babett Peter (67′) scored for Germany on July 21 in Tilburg. As with France, Germany face a must-win scenario over a team they should beat in Russia, a team that Sweden dispatched 2-0 on Match Day 2 at De Adlaarshorst in Deventer, the home of Go Ahead Eagles. Sweden face a similar situation against Italy but have a silver lining in the form of superior goal differential to Germany. Pia Sundhage’s Blagult are expected to get the three points regardless.
But England are not the only team that are in hot form. The hosts, Sarina Wiegman’s Oranje, have put on a show in Group A, while Martin Sjögren’s Grasshoppers of Norway, once a dominant power in the women’s game are facing elimination from the Euros in a very sorry campaign that may culminate in a sacking.
The point was made clear on July 16, when Shanice Van de Sanden scored one of the most famous goals in Dutch women’s football history for a 1-0 win for the Netherlands over Norway in Utretcht. They followed that up with the same scoreline against Denmark at the Sparta Stadion Het Kasteel in Rotterdam on July 20. Sherida Spitse scored the match-winning penalty 20 minutes in. A draw against regional rivals Belgium should see the Dutch top the group.
Now we move on to a preview of the next major tournament for the United States. After a poor SheBelieves Cup campaign, a chance for redemption is on the cards for the USA as they participate in the Tournament of Nations. Here is our predicted order of finish for this round robin tournament.
1. United States
You have to commend Sunil Gulati for keeping his faith in Jill Ellis despite the shortcomings that the manager had overseeing the USA women’s team at Rio 2016 and the most recent SheBelieves Cup. One would have to believe that this tournament is the start of a revival of form for the defending world champions. The arrival of a new bargaining agreement and pay increases have resulted in a happier list. And when the team has positive vibes all over, the form is sure to follow. We here at TST have the USWNT winning their own tournament, the Tournament of Nations.
Chicago Red Star Alyssa Naeher is expected to start at goalkeeper for the Nats. FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn (126 caps) and Houston Dash midfielder Carli Lloyd (239 caps, 97 goals) are the co-captains. Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe had 120 caps and 31 goals to her name, while Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan has 125 caps and 73 goals and is coming off a successful run with Olympique Lyonnais, winning the treble. Fellow Pride member and defender Ali Krieger is two caps away from reaching the century mark for USWNT appearances.
The matches between the USA and Nadeshiko Japan are never boring. They are full of pace, production, emotion and great goals. The two sides renew the premier pan-Pacific rivalry in women’s international football on August 3 at StubHub Center in Carson, the finale to the tournament. Japan finished sixth place at the Algarve and won the Kirin Challenge Cup over Costa Rica in April. Asako Takakura is the new manager in charge of Japan and while it has been a process to integrate new faces and stars, there is reason to believe that the Nadeshiko are to make this tournament their coming-out party.
Three veteran players lead a team that is still being blooded in but should factor into World Cup Qualification and the East Asian Cup later this year: Kobe Leonessa defender Aya Sameshima (78 caps), NTW Beleza midfielder Mizuho Sakaguchi and Seattle Reign midfielder Rumi Utsugi (95 caps). Utsugi is one of two players based outside of Japan on this list, the other is 1.FFC Frankfurt forward Kumi Yokoyama (20 caps, 11 goals). A majority of the domestic players hail from NTV Beleza, who are a 13-time and defending Nadeshiko League champion. Currently, Beleza are first in that competition’s season through 10 games with a 7-2-1 record (23 points).
The fans who will watch the Tournament of Nations have come to see the face of Brazilian women’s football, Marta. She headlines Emily Lima’s Canaries of Brazil with 118 caps and 108 goals. Brazil have only had one setback to their year, a 3-1 loss away to Germany earlier this month. The side feature a couple of Houston Dash players in defender Bruna Benites (50 caps, five goals) and midfielder Andressinha (47 caps, five goals). Marta’s home club is Orlando, the same club of defender Monica (36 caps, give goals) and midfielder Camila (eight caps). Midfielder Debinha has broken out in a big way for NWSL leaders North Carolina Courage and has 21 goals in 56 caps for Brazil.
The underdogs in this tournament are the Matildas of Australia, under the direction of Alen Stajcic. Australia finished fourth place at the Algarve Cup. Their match with Brazil on Aug. 3 in Carson is the first of three straight friendlies with the Canaries (the others take place on Sept. 16 in Sydney’s Pepper Stadium and Sept. 19 at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle). The Matildas are banking on Football Federation Australia in succeeding in securing the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The tournament marks the debut of 17-year old Princess Ibini-Isei of Sydney FC, the younger sister of Bernie Ibini-Isei of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Co-captains Clare Polkinghorne (95 caps, seven goals) and Lisa De Vanna (121 caps, 40 goals) have 216 caps between them. NWSL-based players include Houston Dash goalkeeper Lydia Willia (60 caps), Orlando Pride defenders Steph Catley (57 caps) and Alanna Kennedy (52 caps), Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr (50 caps, eight goals) and Portland Thorns striker Hayley Raso (17 caps). Norwegian powerhouse Avaldsnes IL has a strong presence and has lent the most players to this Matildas list with four.