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The Week in Women's Football: Exclusive with Hannah Keane; USWNT dominate Portugal; Euro2021 qualifiers;

We talked to Hannah Keane of surprising Braga of Portugal who will face 2014-15 and 2016-17 Women's Champions League finalists Paris St. Germain of France in the Round of 32 ties later this month (September 11/12 and 25/26). We also look at Portugal's two friendly internationals versus the United States and the first qualifying matches for the 2021 European Championships. We also discuss Vera Pauw's recent hiring as the Republic of Ireland's women' national team manager.

Hannah Keane of Braga of Portugal Interview

American Hannah Keane started two of surprise packet Braga's Women's Champions League's Qualification Round matches last month, when the Portuguese side dispatched Sturm Graz of Austria, RFS of Latvia and veteran WCL side Apollon of Cyprus by a combined 11-0 score line, to finish their group undefeated and move on to the Round of 32, which is quite rare for a debutant team in that tournament. Keane played for a year in Germany's FrauenBundesliga with Jena, a side that struggled and was relegated during her stay. She described it as, "a tough experience" but she was able to reflect on what she still wanted to accomplish in her professional career, plus a change from a German agent to a U.S.-based agent—Michael Beatty with PFC Sports Management—was helpful to her. Her new agent spent time understanding her goals, "which was so helpful and I knew what I wanted in terms of a better organized club." She joined Sporting Clube de Braga in Portugal before last season, which went on to clinch the league and cup title in 2018-19. Braga is a comparatively young franchise in only its fourth season of operation. She said that, "Winning the league was unexpected; Sporting Lisbon was the top dog [champions in previous two seasons, triumphing over second placed Braga in 2016-17 and 2017-18, both seasons by three points] and we were focused on the league and won it" [along with the cup]. Keane said that the Womens Champions League tournament did not come into the players' thinking until the clinched the title in May, "We were not focused on the Champions League [which they qualified automatically for as league winners] but only then did we realize what it meant." Keane explained that playing in the WCL cut back on their summer holidays, that they only had 3-4 weeks off rather than 7-8 this past summer, "which was not enough time to rest." Braga plays Benfica in a Super Cup match early in September but the first weekend of league play does not begin until September 21. However, they were excited for the Champions League and it was a new experience for the squad, "We prepared and played as hard as we could. We had a lucky draw and Apollon [Cyprus] was our hardest challenge. We made another round." Big budget side PSG will be another level of challenge altogether but Braga has done itself proud no matter what happens and PSG is a side that can leak goals at times. Braga's 1-0 win over Apollon was particularly surprising as it was the Portuguese side's first time in the European club tournament, while Apollon was appearing in its tenth Women's Champions League, with the 2019-20 campaign only the third year that they have failed to qualify for the knockout stage.

Hannah Keane played collegiately at San Diego State University and tried out with the Orlando Pride and the Boston Breakers of the NWSL, playing a few matches with their reserve team. One difficult aspect of being an undrafted player vying for an NWSL spot is that the league teams largely have no set reserve system or league; some teams have relationships with WPSL or UWS teams (we reported last month that the Utah Royals FC Reserves team made the WPSL Finals this year— Boston Breakers—until they folded—had a strong link with their reserve team which were WPSL Champions in 2016 and the Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars also have well organized reserve teams. Reserve players and trialists are not paid or under contract but the carrot of hope of a roster spot is dangled before them and frequently it leads nowhere. The Houston Dash under Randy Waldrum was legendary for bringing in 10-15 trialists for preseason and then not really cutting them, just letting them stay around if they wanted to—at their expense. One player once told me that she had her own camps to run at home and other possibilities, and the failure of the coaches to be definite to the players was puzzling and disappointing.

Note: During college, Keane spent time studying abroad in Sunderland and played for Newcastle for a few games in the regional third tier of women's football.

Keane is very positive about playing abroad and wants young players at home to realize that there are many opportunities in Europe, that the quality of play is high and pay can be worthwhile, "Even if you don't get drafted, Europe can be such a good challenge, the pay can be better as some teams have money and the level of play is good." After her time in Germany she knows now how to evaluate prospective clubs, "Based on their overall organization and the coaches behind me. Good fan support is a plus." She sees that playing in the NWSL would be nice and she would be closer to family and friends but she would not join a team in the league without a guaranteed contract. She just signed a new two year deal with Braga and is looking forward to putting roots down in Portugal.

Six of her teammates played against the Americans in late August (see below) and early September while another half dozen were with the U-19 side and the club had internationals from Cameroon (Farida Machia) and the Republic of Ireland (Marie Hourihan) recalled for recent internationals, which has somewhat complicated preparations for the PSG two-leg tie. Braga of Portugal had two Brazilians, three Americans and single imports from Nigeria, the Republic of Ireland and Venezuela. Goalkeeper Marie Hourihan of the Republic of Ireland (32) joined the club this season after playing in the WSL for years with Birmingham City, Chelsea, Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion before moving to Portugal. Chinaza Uchendu (21) played for Nigeria in this summer's Women's World Cup in France.

Before joining Braga, Lithuanian power Gintra was interested in Hannah Keane playing for them. Gintra has appeared in the Continental club competition 16 consecutive years, advancing to the Round of 32 on three occasions and reaching the Round of 16 in 2014-15 and 2017-18—they were another surprising team to fall short of the Round of 32 this season, losing to Wexford Youths of the Republic of Ireland and tying eventual Group champions Vllaznia of Albania.

Hannah Keane has shown that American players that have not ever been a part of the U.S. youth team structure or drafted by a NWSL team can have a successful professional career in Europe. For Keane and other Americans like her, it is clear that the new U.S. women's national team coaching staff (yet to be decided) needs to scout Americans abroad much more closely than they have in the past, to find these hidden jewels.

The U.S. Women's National Team shuts out Portugal Twice in Friendlies

Portugal brought 23 players to the States for a two game friendly series against the 2015 and 2019 Women's World Cup winning Americans. Seven of the players are tied with clubs abroad, with 2 in Italy, 2 in Germany, 2 in France and 1 in England. Of the 16 home based squad members, 6 play for current champions Braga and 8 are with Sporting CP, with two from Benfica.

Portugal Women's National Team Roster for the U.S. Tour

AC Milan (Italy) – Mónica Mendes

BV Borussia Bocholt (Germany) – Ana Leite

Inter Milão (Italy) – Andreia Norton

Manchester City (England) – Matilde Fidalgo

Olympique Lyon (France) – Jéssica Silva

Stade de Reims (France) – Mélissa Gomes

Wolfsburg (Germany) – Cláudia Neto

SC Braga – Diana Gomes, Dolores Silva, Inês Maia, Rute Costa, Vanessa Marques and

Ágata Pimenta

SL Benfica – Raquel Infante and Sílvia Rebelo

Sporting CP – Ana Borges, Carolina Mendes, Diana Silva, Fátima Pinto, Inês Pereira,

Joana Marchão, Patrícia Morais and Tatiana Pinto

In the first game on August 29 in Philadelphia, the Americans triumphed 4-0 in front of a record crowd of 49,504 for a women's national team friendly match in the States. Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns) and Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars) scored in the first half, with both assists coming from Christen Press, while Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC) and Allie Long (Portland Thorns) scored in the second half, with Lloyd assisting on Long's score. The previous attendance record for a WNT friendly match was 46,037, set during a doubleheader with the Men's National Team in 1998. That game, against New Zealand at RFK Stadium, was part of the World Cup sendoff for the men's national team. The Philadelphia game was the ninth-largest attendance for a USWNT match on home soil in the team's history. The eight matches ahead of it are six from the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup and two from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In the second match on September 3, the U.S. again shutout Portugal by a 3-0 score line, with Carli Lloyd scoring twice (one from the penalty spot) in the first half and Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns) scoring in the second half. North Carolina Courage forward Kristen Hamilton made her debut for the U.S. at any level in the second half. Her 8 goals this season in the NWSL is tied for third highest in the league and her scoring, particularly while a number of players were gone for World Cup duty, helped keep the Courage cruising for a top two league finish and home semifinal. The game attracted a sellout crowd of 19,600 to Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, home to Minnesota United of Major League Soccer.

The U.S. is now 9-0-0 all-time against Portugal.

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Portugal
Date: August 29, 2019
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pa.
Attendance: 49,504

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 2 4
POR 0 0 0

USA - Tobin Heath (Christen Press) 4th minute
USA - Morgan Brian (Christen Press) 18
USA - Carli Lloyd (Lindsey Horan) 52
USA - Allie Long (Carli Lloyd) 82

USA: 21-Adrianna Franch; 14-Emily Sonnett (26-Casey Short, 60), 7-Abby Dahlkemper (3-Samantha Mewis, 46), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 12-Tierna Davidson (19-Crystal Dunn, 46); 8-Julie Ertz, 6-Morgan Brian (20-Allie Long, 61), 9-Lindsey Horan (2-Mallory Pugh, 61); 17- Tobin Heath (22-Jessica McDonald, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 23-Christen Press
Substitutes not used: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 18-Ashlyn Harris, 25-Kristen Hamilton
Not available: 5-Kelley O'Hara, 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 16-Rose Lavelle
Head coach: Jill Ellis

POR: 12-Patrícia Morais, 2-Mónica Mendes, 4-Sílvia Rebelo, 7-Cláudia Neto (capt.) (13-Fátima Pinto, 46), 9-Ana Borges (5-Matilde Fidalgo, 63), 10-Jéssica Silva (capt.) (8-Melissa Gomes, 88), 11-Tatiana Pinto, 14-Dolores Silva, 16-Diana Silva (18-Carolina Mendes, 63), 17-Vanessa Marques, 23-Joana Marchão (6-Andreia Norton, 46)
Substitutes not used: 1-Inês Pereira, 22-Rute Costa, 3-Raquel Infante, 15-Ágata Pimenta, 19-Diana Gomes, 20-Ana Leite, 21-Inês Maia
Head coach: Francisco Neto

Stats Summary: USA / POR
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 8 / 2
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 1
Fouls: 6 / 5
Offside: 4 / 2

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Portugal
Date: September 3, 2019
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Allianz Field; St. Paul, Minn.
Attendance: 19,600 (Sell Out)

Scoring Summary:1 2 F
USA 2 1 3
POR 0 0 0

USA - Carli Lloyd 22nd minute
USA - Carli Lloyd (Penalty Kick) 32
USA - Lindsey Horan (Christen Press) 83

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 14-Emily Sonnett (26-Casey Short, 46), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (9-Lindsey Horan, 46), 19-Crystal Dunn (12-Tierna Davidson, 46); 8-Julie Ertz, 6-Morgan Brian, 3-Samantha Mewis (2-Mallory Pugh, 57); 17-Tobin Heath (23-Christen Press, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 22-Jessica McDonald (25-Kristen Hamilton, 76)
Substitutes not used: 21-Adrianna Franch, 20-Allie Long
Not available: 5-Kelley O'Hara, 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 16-Rose Lavelle
Head coach: Jill Ellis

POR: 1-Inês Pereira; 2-Mónica Mendes, 4-Sílvia Rebelo (capt.), 19-Diana Gomes, 9-Ana Borges (5-Matilde Fidalgo, 46); 11-Tatiana Pinto, 13-Fátima Pinto, 17-Vanessa Marques (10-Jéssica Silva, 61), 6-Andreia Norton (7-Cláudia Neto, 61); 18-Carolina Mendes (14-Dolores Silva, 61), 16-Diana Silva (20-Ana Leite, 82)
Substitutes not used: 22-Rute Costa, 3-Raquel Infante, 15-Ágata Pimenta, 21-Inês Maia, 12-Patrícia Morais, 8-Melissa Gomes, 23-Joana Marchão
Head coach: Francisco Neto

Stats Summary: USA / POR
Shots: 21 / 1
Shots on Goal: 10 / 0
Saves: 0 / 7
Corner Kicks: 6 / 0
Fouls: 8 / 12
Offside: 0 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
USA - Carli Lloyd (caution) 78th minute
POR - Dolores Silva (caution) 81

UEFA 2021 EUROS Qualifiers start

We look at the 9 Groups for the 2021 European Championships as the first Qualifying matches began on August 29 and concluded on September 3 with seven teams undefeated with 6 points after 2 games: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands and Russia.

Group A: Netherlands (holders), Russia, Slovenia, Turkey, Kosovo, Estonia

On August 30, the reigning title holders the Netherlands beat Estonia 7-0 and on September 3, they also shut out Turkey 3-0 for a tie for the Group A lead with Russia. Russia defeated Slovenia 1-0 on August 30 from a goal by Margarita Chernomyrdina (CSKA Moscow) in the 25th minute. On September 3, Russia defeated Estonia at home 4-0 for a perfect start to their qualifying campaign, with a brace from Nelli Korovkina (Lokomotive Moscow).

On August 30, Kosovo beat Turkey 2-0 with first half goals from 20-year-old Modesta Uka of Sturm Graz of Austria and 22-year-old Alberina Syla of SV Alberweiler in Germany's regional leagues.

On September 3, Slovenia defeated Kosovo at home 5-0 with Captain Mateja Zver (St. Polten of Austria, who played with Thor of Iceland for 5 years some years back) scoring a brace.

Group B: Italy, Denmark, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Malta, Georgia

After two games, Denmark, Bonsia-Herzegovina and Italy top the group on six points, with Denmark (+11) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (+8) holding a strong advantage over Italy in goal difference (+2).

On September 3, Italy finished the FIFA window undefeated with a narrow 1-0 win away at Georgia, with Cristiana Girelli (in her second season with Juventus after years with Brescia—who sold their franchise license ahead of the 2018-19 season to A.C. Milan—and Verona) scoring the lone goal in the 24th minute, after her penalty kick was saved by 19-year-old goalkeeper Tatia Gabunia of Georgia. On August 29, Israel lost at home by a single goal to Italy in Ramat Gan (3-2).

On August 30, Bosnia and Herzegovina over-whelmed Georgia 7-1. Bosnia and Herzegovina finished their first two games unbeaten with a 9-1 goals for/goals against tally on September 3 after a 2-0 win over Malta, with Milena Nikolic (in her first year at Bayer Leverkusen after transferring from SC Sand) scoring twice within 8 minutes midway through the second half.Nikolic also had a brace in the win over Georgia.

On August 29, Denmark blasted Malta 8-0 with braces from Sanne Troelsgaard (Rosengard of Sweden) and Stine Larsen (in her first year with Fleury 91 of France after transferring from Brondby of Denmark, where she won three league titles).

On September 3, Israel fell again at home, this time to table-toppers Denmark 3-0, with late goals by Nadia Nadim in the 80th minute (of PSG in France, after two years with Manchester City, two with the Portland Thorns and two with Sky Blue FC in the NWSL), Pernille Harder in the 83rd minute (Wolfsburg of Germany and ex-Linkopings of Sweden) and an own goal from 20-year-old defender Lia Barkai (who won the league title last season with ASA Tel Aviv and played in the WCL qualification round last month) in the 13th minute that was the ultimate game winner.

Group C: Norway, Wales, Belarus, Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands

Wales leads Group C with 4 points, but may rue the two lost points to Northern Ireland later in the campaign (below).

On August 29, Wales beat Faroe Island 6-0 away in Torshavn with Natasha Harding (Reading) scoring a hat trick, including a penalty.

Norway beat Northern Ireland by the same scoreline of 6-0 on August 30 with 2019 WWC star Caroline Graham Hansen (who transferred to Barcelona from Wolfsburg over the summer) notching a hat-trick and a brace from Amalie Eikeland (Sandviken of Norway this season after years at Arna-Bjornar).

On September 3, Belarus defeated the Faroe Islands 6-0 with a trio of braces from their captain Anastasia Shcherbachenia (Parnu of Estonia), 19-year-old Karina Olkhovik (Isloch-RGUOR of Belarus—who scored 42 goals in 2018) and second half substitute Anastaia Kharlanova (Isloch-RGUOR of Belarus).

Northern Ireland pulled off an upset by holding Wales to a 2-2 draw away as the Irish took an early lead through a goal in the 11th minute by Simone Magill (Everton of England), which Wales tied through Angharad James' (Reading of England) tally in the 22nd minute. Wales seemingly had won the three points through Keyleigh Green's (Brighton and Hove Albion) goal in the 69th minute but defender Ashley Hutton (Linfield of Northern Ireland) scored at the death, four minutes into injury time, after a free-kick was pushed onto the crossbar by Welsh keeper Laura O'Sullivan (Cardiff City, after a few months in England with Yeovil Town). Hutton won her 100th cap for the Irish. Incredibly, the match was the only EUROs Qualifying deadlock result among 27 held during the FIFA window.

Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Moldova, Azerbaijan

On August 30, Czech Republic defeated Moldova 7-0 in Chisinau (before a crowd of 370) in the only game held for the group, with Katerina Svitkova (Slavia Prague) scoring a brace. The Czech Republic was due to host Poland on September 3 but the match will be rescheduled due to food poisoning illnesses suffered by some of the Czech players.

Group E: Scotland, Finland, Portugal, Albania, Cyprus

After the first two games of the group, Scotland and Finland are tied at the top with 3 points, while Portugal played two friendlies in the States and will probably push the two leaders for a EUROs Final spot, after their debut appearance in 2017 (see above).

On August 30, Scotland beat Cyprus 8-0 in Edinburgh as Kim Little (Arsenal and ex-Melbourne City and Seattle Reign star) scored 5 goals and leads the Golden Boot table so far. Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride) started the goals avalanche in the 11th minute, while Jane Ross (Manchester United and formerly with West Ham United, Manchester City, Vittsjo in Sweden and Glasgow City at home) and Caroline Weir (in her second year at Manchester City after time with Liverpool, Bristol City, Arsenal in England and Hibernian at home) also scored, with Weir's tally coming in injury time. The game attracted the second highest home crowd ever to watch the women's national team—6,206.

On September 2, Finland defeated Albania away 3-0 with Linda Sallstrom (in her second year at Paris FC after years in Sweden with Vittsjo, Linkoping and Djurgarden) scoring a brace.

Group F: Sweden, Iceland, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia

Iceland sits alone at the top with 6 points after playing two games while their other four competitors have played only once.

On August 29, Iceland defeated Hungary 4-1 as 24-year-old Elin Jensen (in her tenth season with Valur) scored twice, with 19-year-old Hlin Eiriksdottier (also at Valur) and Dagny Brynjarsdottir (Portland Thorns) scoring. Midfielder Henrietta Csiszar (in her fourth season with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany) had the lone reply for Hungary in the 42nd minute. On September 2, also in Reykjavik, Iceland won by the lone goal against Slovakia with Jensen scoring her third goal in two games

On September 3, Sweden defeated Latvia away 4-1.

Group G: France, Austria, Serbia, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia

Austria and Serbia are atop of the standings after the 2 matches with 3 points and even on goal difference with +3.

On September 1, Serbia defeated Kazakhstan away 3-0 with all the goals coming after approximately one hour. On September 3, Austria opened their campaign at home with a 3-0 win over North Macedonia.

Group H: Switzerland, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania

Belgium, Switzerland and Croatia are all tied at the top of the group with 3 points, but Croatia has played two games compared to one game for the other two joint leaders

On August 29, Croatia won 2-1 over Lithuania away in Siauliai. On September 3, Switzerland defeated Lithuania 4-0 at home. Also on September 3, Belgium dispatched Croatia 6-1 with a hat-trick from Janice Cayman (who joined Olympique Lyon after three years at Montpellier—she had a short spell at Western New York Flash when they won the NWSL title in 2016—after a number of years in France of Juvisy).

Group I: Germany, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Greece, Montenegro

Germany leads the group on 6 points, with the Republic of Ireland also undefeated with 3 points after 1 game.

On August 31, Germany defeated Montenegro 10-0 at home in Kassel in front of a crowd of 6,275, with a hat-trick from Alexandra Popp (Wolfsburg) and a brace from 18-year-old Klara Buhl (Freiburg of Germany). On September 3, Germany shutout Ukraine 8-0 on the road in L'viv in front of 988 fans with Sara Dabritz (who joined Paris St. Germain this year after previously playing with Bayern Munich and Freiburg) leading the way with a hat-trick. The same day, the Republic of Ireland defeated Montenegro at home 2-0 with a 7th minute goal by 18-year-old Tyler Toland (who joined Manchester City last month after two seasons with Northern Ireland club Sion Swifts) and a 69th minute penalty from Katie McCabe (Arsenal).

On September 4, the Football Association of Ireland named veteran Dutch Manager Vera Pauw as their new permanent women's national team manager. Pauw watched the squad defeat Montenegro at home the previous night. Pauw has coached national teams in Russia, South Africa, Scotland and her homeland, and last season coached the Houston Dash in the NWSL. Though her Houston side did not make the playoffs, she tightened up the defense and the team was much more competitive than in the past; she also helped to galvanize the play of Rachel Daly, who ended up making England's 2019 Women's World Cup squad. She led the Netherlands to the semifinals of the 2009 EUROs. A month ago it looked like former German international and long-time U-19 coach Maren Meinert would take up the role. This is an important move for Ireland and Pauw always leaves her teams better than when she joined them—hopefully she can grow the relatively small player base in the Gaelic Football-mad country to drive the Irish to the EUROS in 2021 and a Women's World Cup berth in 2023.

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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