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The Week in Women's Football: CONCACAF & Asian 2020 Olympic Qualifying finals;

This week we report live from the CONCACAF 2020 Olympic Games Semifinals and Final matches in Los Angeles, which sends the region's two representatives to the Tokyo Olympics this summer and we also wrap up the third round of group play for the CONCACAF finals. We also look at the progress so far in the Asian Football Confederation's Olympic Games Third Round groups, which have seen so much turmoil, having been moved from two cities in China to Australia due to the Coronovirus and Korea DPR dropping out of the group because of some dissatisfaction with the host Korea Republic, which has been rather vague in explanation, leaving only three teams participating, with two moving onto next month's semifinals to send two teams onto Tokyo.



CONCACAF 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES QUALIFYING FINALS

The U.S. and Mexico advanced to the 2020 Olympic Games in women's football over the weekend of February 7 through 9 in Los Angeles, with the Americans defeating Canada 3-0 in the CONCACAF Final on February 9 to advance as the regional champions. Lynn Williams had a goal and two assists (to Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe) with all three goals coming in the last thirty minutes against the Maple Leafs.

In the semifinals on February 7, Canada defeated a gritty Costa Rica 1-0 with a Jordan Huitema (Paris St. Germain) goal in the 72nd minute. Her shot from close range first hit the left post and on the rebound she slotted it into the right hand side of the net. Substitute Deanne Rose (20) of the University of Florida came on minutes before to take on the right side of the Costa Rican defense with her blinding speed and her pinpoint cross found Huitema in the box for the winner. Huitema, only 18, finished the tournament atop the goal scorers table with 7 goals. Canada qualified for its fourth consecutive Olympic Games Finals in women's football. In the nightcap, the U.S. dispatched Mexico 4-0, with two goals from Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage) and singles from Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit) and Christen Press (Utah Royals). The Americans qualified for its seventh consecutive Olympic Games Finals—making all 7 events held with women's football including this summer. They won four Gold Medals, in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Note: Next week we will have quotes from coaches and players of all four teams, including thoughts for the future of their respective programs and our view of where the competitive balance stands in CONCACAF among national teams at the conclusion of this tournament.

In the last game of CONCACAF 2020 Olympic Games Final Qualifying Group A play, the U.S. secured top spot in the group in Houston on February 3, defeating Costa Rico 6-0. Christen Press (Utah Royals) was stellar with two stunning first half goals and one assist while midfielder Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage) also had two goals along with Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns) and Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage) scoring once each, with Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC) chipping in with two assists. The U.S. outshot Costa Rica 24-1 (for shots on goal 13-0) and had a 5-1 advantage on corner kicks. The two games attracted 7,082 fans to BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas.

In the other game to conclude Group A, Haiti overwhelmed Panama 6-0, scoring their first goals of the tournament and finishing in third place with 3 points, while Panama finished with 0 points and a -19 goal differential. Two French-based forwards, Mikerline Saint Felix (Montauban FC, currently second in Group A of the Feminine Division 2) and Nerilia Mondesir (Montpellier, currently fourth in Feminine Division 1), each scored a brace. 16-year-old Melchie Dumornay (AS Tigresses of Haiti) and Batcheba Louis (FF Issy Les Moulineaux, first in Group A of the Feminine Division 2, from which only one team is promoted) added singles for Haiti. Despite losing to the U.S. (4-0) and Costa Rica (2-0), Haiti continues to improve with a rich group of talented youngsters, and just as we saw when they qualified for the 2018 U-20 Women's World Cup Finals and performed quite well in the group stage, Haiti will at some point soon break through at a senior CONCACAF Finals to advance to a major tournament.



2020 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Group A Final Standings

TEAM

GP

W

L

D

GF

GA

GD

PTS

USA

3

3

0

0

18

0

+18

9

Costa Rica

3

2

1

0

8

7

+1

6

Haiti

3

1

2

0

6

6

0

3

Panama

3

0

3

0

1

20

-19

0

In the final Group B matches on February 4 in Edinburg, Texas, Canada took top honors in the group stage with a 2-0 defeat of Mexico. Canada used first half goals by the Portland Thorn's Christine Sinclair (adding to her now record haul of international goals with her 186th) and the Orlando Pride's Shelina Zadorsky to secure the win. Mexico's defense stymied Canada for good portions of the match and Mexico's ball control and movement out of midfield was quite sophisticated. This was always going to be a nervy contest as the Group B winner would play Costa Rica in the semifinal, on paper an easier draw than the Americans, who second place Mexico now have to play. There was some history here as well as in the semifinals of the 2004 CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Athens Greece Olympics, heavily favored Canada was surprisingly eliminated by Mexico 2-1 and earned a trip to Greece. Canada had come off of a surprising fourth place finish just months before at the 2003 Women's World Cup in the States while Mexico had not qualified for that World Cup and were still trying to build their program under former Mexican national team star Leonardo Cuellar, who utilized about half of his squad from college trained Mexican-American diaspora. In an interview at a friendly match some months later with this reporter, Cuellar said that he prepared his team for the match by ramping up their physical play in practice. Canada expected Mexico to play their usual technical passing game but was surprised when they matched Canada's signature, aggressive, battling style and directly attacked the goal. The wily coach felt that match could have a long-term impact on the sport in his country, particularly since it was telecast live nationwide. Even Pellerud, the Norwegian Coach of Canada from 2000 through 2008, told this reporter that his proudest achievement was qualifying Canada for their first Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing, rather than the 2003 WWC campaign.

In the final Group B match, Jamaica defeated St. Kitts and Nevis 7-0. Khadija (Bunny) Shaw of Bordeaux in France—who are currently third in the Feminine Division 1 as Shaw has 9 goals to be joint fourth on the league goal scorer's table—and Kayla McCoy (Houston Dash—who tore her ACL just before the 2019 WWC and missed the event in France) both scored braces to power the Reggae Girlz. Tiffany Cameron (Stabaek of Norway), Havana Solaun (Klepp of Norway—who scored Jamaica's only WWC Finals goal in France against Australia—and Trudi Carter (AS Roma of Italy) from the penalty spot added single tallies.

Jamaica still has to deal with more support from the Jamaican Federation as 2019 Women's World Cup coach Hue Menzies resigned late last year over unpaid compensation totaling a reported $40,000—Menzies began with the team in 2015 and had not received any salary. He explained, "We have a business to run here and things to do so I really can't just be on the fence trying to figure out what I am doing without any type of communication, so I decided to step down. I didn't want to leave the players but at the end of the day, I have to take care of some things here that are actually paying my bills. I still have not been paid by the JFF and they still owe me money for reimbursements, so without any type of communication, we just can't operate like that." Menzies runs a youth club in Orlando.

Menzies' long-time assistant Lorne Donaldson took the team through Olympic Games qualifying when Menzies refused to continue to work without pay but Donaldson resigned in January saying in a letter to the Jamaican Football Federation, "This decision is primarily based on the questionable integrity and lack of professionalism within the leadership of the JFF." The team was led in Texas by former Vancouver Whitecaps Women and Seattle Sounders Women's coach Hubert Busby.

Last month it was reported that the JFF had made compensation payments of 80% to the women's coaches and team staff, but Cedella Marley, daughter of Reggae singing legend Bob Marley, and the Bob Marley Foundation has stepped in again to support the team as they have for years. Busby is a really good coach and I have known him for some years, but this program needs to have the JFF step up and support it as they do with the men's side and help the local women's league grow. They cannot continue to go through coaches and shortchange the team on support or they will quickly find themselves in the weeds like Trinidad and Tobago has for the same reasons, who lost badly to St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean Football Union Qualifying Rounds and did not make this tournament—5 years ago they narrowly lost to Ecuador in a two-leg intercontinental qualifying tie for the last 2015 WWC spot. Jamaica, as the first ever Caribbean WWC team, needs to lead the region and they are an inspiration to players that I have talked to in other CFU nations—it can all slip away so quickly and their marvelous generation of player—mainly in the States and with clubs abroad—need to be encouraged and supported for further success to take place, particularly since CONCACAF should have more spots available than 3.5 for the expanded 2023 WWC.

As far as St. Kitts and Nevis is concerned, despite not scoring at all in three games, they were quite interesting to watch and quite surprising because the team was so young, including 14-year-old Kayla Uddenburg (who lives in Canada), 15-year old Kaylee Bennett from Baltimore, 16 year old Ellie Stokes (who her coach Jene' Baclawski said she should definitely be picked up by a Division 1 American college team in the years to come) and 17-year-old Iyania Bailey-Williams (who lives in Puerto Rico and plays with Bayamon F.C.) Cloey Uddenberg is 17-years-old (one of 3 sisters on the team) and was quite impressive in midfield and should be a solid college player and have a potential professional career. Backup goalkeeper Quinn Josiah (19) is from Ontario in Canada and started the final group game against Jamaica. She plays at Prairie View University in Texas, who qualified for the NCAA playoffs for t the first time and lost to 2019 College Cup Champions Stanford in the first round (15-0).



2020 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Group B Final Standings

TEAM

GP

W

L

D

GF

GA

GD

PTS

Canada

3

3

0

0

22

0

+22

9

Mexico

3

2

1

0

7

2

+5

6

Jamaica

3

1

2

0

7

10

-3

3

St. Kitts and Nevis

3

0

3

0

0

24

-24

0



Asian 2020 Olympic Games Third Round Qualifiers

The 2020 Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Women's Olympic Games Qualifying Football Tournament Third Round Group B between Australia, China, Chinese Taipei and Thailand has come under some considerable turmoil in recent weeks. Originally scheduled to be held in Wuhan China, which became a non-starter as Wuhan was the source of the Coronavirus breakout. The tournament was then shifted to Nanjing. With incidents of the virus found spreading throughout China, the tournament group was shifted at the last minute to Sydney, Australia on January 30. Football Federation Australia Chief Executive James Johnson said, "FFA very much appreciates the collaborative approach displayed by everyone to re-schedule the Olympic Qualification tournament. I'd like to thank the CFA [China Football Association] for their understanding and cooperation, despite the difficult situation their team and staff have found themselves in since arriving in Brisbane. FIFA, AFCand the clubs have also been extremely flexible and supportive of the changes to the match schedule. I'd also like to thank the Australian and Queensland Governments, Campbelltown City Council [near Sydney] and Venues NSW, along with the many organizations involved in accommodating and transporting the teams. As always, the health of everyone involved, from players and officials to the fans and contractors, remains the number one priority. This new format allows us to stage these matches with that priority in mind and we now look forward to welcoming all teams and hosting a successful tournament."

The schedule, originally set for two games each day on February 3, 6 and 9, had to be reconfigured a few times, in part because China, who had trained in Australia last month and lost to Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 in an exhibition in Brisbane, were quarantined to their hotel in Brisbane as a standard health procedure since late in January to ensure that no team members had the virus. The group matches were rescheduled for February 3, 7 1nd 10, while a final day was added for February 12 to accommodate the crucial China versus Australia game, which was later switched to a day later on February 13.

It was not just women's football that was affected by the virus as men's domestic and Asian Champions League matches have been postponed, as has the start of the Chinese Basketball Association League, which was due to start on February 1. The Asian Indoor Track and Field Championships later this month in Hangzhou were cancelled, as was the first Winter X-Games in China for Chongli, as was the Hong Kong Marathon, and Olympic Qualifying events in boxing and women's basketball were moved out of the country.

In the first Group B game on February 3, Chinese Taipei upset Thailand 1-0, with a 19th minute goal by Ting Chi (24) assisted by Wang Hsiang Huei (32). Thailand led by a 2-1 margin in possession over Chinese Taipei, while the winners led in shots (14-7) and shots on target (4-2) despite only having 1 corner to 11 for Thailand. Thailand had played in the last two Women's World Cup Finals while Chinese Taipei played in the first Women's World Cup Final tournament in 1991 in China.

Chinese Taipei was brought back down to earth on February 7 when Australia pounced for 7 goals—3 from Arsenal's Caitlin Foord—in suburban Sydney. The day before, the People's Republic of China opened their tournament with a 6-1 thrashing of Thailand, with braces from Li Ying (along with 1 assist) and Tang Jiali (24 of Shanghai Ladies). Ying currently plays with Shandong Ladies and at 27, has over 100 caps for her country, and played for a short time in the Korea Republic with Suwon. Silawan Intamee of Chonburi in Thailand scored her country's first goal of the tournament in the 80th minute.

Group A was not without its controversy as well. Korea DPR dropped out of the group last month because of some dissatisfaction with the host nation Korea Republic, which has been rather vague in explanation but seemed tied to the fact that the Korea Republic ended up not bidding on the 2023 Women's World Cup by the December 2019 deadline—which could have had some games held in the North. It might also have been because Korea DPR would have had to compete against their southern neighbors in their third round group. The result left only three teams participating, with two moving onto next month's semifinals to send two teams onto Tokyo.

In Group A's opener on February 3, Korea Republic blasted Myanmar 7-0 with 5 second half goals and braces by Ji So-yun (Chelsea) along with 2 assists, Park Yee-Un and Yeo Min-Ji (Gumi Sportstoto in Korea Republic and the 2010 Women's U-17 World Cup Golden Boot Winner). On February 6, Vietnam ensured that it advanced to the semifinals after a 1-0 defeat of Myanmar, with Ngan Thi Van Su scoring the loan goal in the 62md minute. Vietnam had substantial advantages over their opponent in possession (64% vs 36%), shots (21 to 2), shots on frame (7 to 2) and corner kicks (6-1). Van Su is 18 and has played for her country's youth teams since 2015. On February 8, Korea Republic defeated Vietnam 3-0—with a 76% to 24% possession advantage and 24 shots to 0 for Vietnam (10 to 0) for shots on goal—to win the group. Korea Republic will face the runner-up in Group B for a spot in Tokyo while Vietnam will go against the Group A winners in the two leg regional final ties next month.



Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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