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The Week in Women's Football: Juventus take home Serie A title; Three Caribbean nations advance in CONCACAF qualifying;

We look at the final 2017-18 table for the Italian top league, Serie A, as well as talk with a former Canadian youth international who has found success the past few seasons with a side who finished sixth this season, after winning Serie B in 2016-17. We also have the results for the final three groups of Caribbean Football Union first round 2019 Women's World Cup Qualifiers.


Italy's Serie A 2017-18 League Championship Review

Juventus defeated Brescia on penalties after a 0-0 tie in the championship decider on May 20. Both clubs finished the regular season tied on points with 60, 17 points ahead of Tavagnacco and Fiorentina, who were tied for third with 43 points.

MP W DLGFGADIF PTS

1

Juventus

22

20

0

2

64

9

+55

60

2

Brescia

22

20

0

2

71

24

+47

60

3

Tavagnacco

22

14

1

7

49

28

+21

43

4

Fiorentina

22

13

4

5

46

20

+26

43

5

Mozzanica

22

13

3

6

37

27

+10

42

6

Fimauto Valpolicella

22

8

2

12

27

46

-19

26

7

Verona

22

7

4

11

33

40

-7

25

8

Res Roma

22

7

1

14

19

36

-17

22

9

Sassuolo

22

6

1

15

21

39

-18

19

10

Zaccaria

22

3

7

12

23

44

-21

16

11

Bari

22

5

1

16

19

53

-34

16

12

Empoli

22

3

2

17

16

59

-43

11

Italian international Valentina Giacinti of Brescia led the 2017-18 league season with 21 goals; she joined Brescia after 4 years at Mozzanica, where she again led the league in scoring in 2015/16 with 32 goals. Giacinti was followed by fellow international Barbara Bonansea of Juventus with 19 (she joined Juve this year after five seasons at Brescia, where she won two Serie A titles and finished runner-up on two other occasions), while yet another Italian international, Cristiana Girelli of Brescia, was third with 17 tallies. Paola Brumana (35 years old), who had a few international appearances for Italy years ago, and Scottish international Lana Clelland of Tavagnacco finished fourth and fifth with 14 and 13 goals, respectively. Clelland has been playing in Italy for four seasons. The only other import among the top 15 scorers was Juventus' Sanni Franssi of Finland (23), who joined the club last summer from PK-25 Vantaa, and finished with 10 goals (tied for seventh).

A look at each team's rosters reveals that the imports for the Italian league this season are primarily from other European countries—including a few from England—along with a couple of players from North America, Australia and New Zealand. Though the signings have not been of the level of some at clubs in Spain (i.e., Toni Duggan from England and Lieke Martens of the Netherlands at Barcelona) the Italian clubs' imports have been purposeful and have contributed to a strong 2017-18 league season, with a captivating finish at the top of the table.

RES Roma, Empoli and Bari utilized no imports on their roster, while Zaccaria had one from France: Felicite Hamidouche (28), who joined this year from Bordeaux.

Juventus had a mix of imports from Europe, including:

Forward Katie Zelem from England—the 22 year old played 5 years at Liverpool from 2013-2017 and this season had 4 goals in 18 games.

Goalkeeper Patricia Prundeanu of Romania

Midfielder Tuija Hyyrynen of Finland, who played for 5 years with Umea of Sweden and in Denmark

MIdifelder Ingvild Isaksen of Norway (29), who played at Stabaek and Kolbotn in Norway for a decade

Forward Sanni Franssi of Finland

Another import came from a much further distance, and despite not having a full international when she signed, made an impact this season when she did play. Katie Rood (25), a youth international at home in New Zealand as well as a college graduate, added a few goals in limited opportunities in her first season abroad. Despite leaving a full-time job at home with the Northern Football Federation as a futsal development officer, a 10 day trial including two-a-day training sessions and friendly matches at Juventus led to a 10 month professional contract, and ultimately full national team caps at home. The former Glenfield Rovers midfielder explained the move: "It was an opportunity to get closer to my dream [to play professional football] and if it didn't work out then at least I would be in Europe and I was confident I could find another club to play for. I can't play football forever so I'm going to use my time now to take it as far as I possibly can."

Rood had a transition to a new culture, country and language in Turin: "The first month or two, everything was so foreign and new. Since then it has been good settling into my apartment and getting into the routine of the trainings and games. I am finally starting to get a good understanding of the language and I can speak a bit now too which has certainly helped with navigating life here."

Having played for the Football Ferns against the U.S., Thailand and Scotland, she wants to play more and hopefully gain a spot in the team for the 2019 Women's World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games. Rood said: "There are so many exciting possibilities in the world of football currently and we are only starting to see the massive growth of the women's game. I played so many sports as a kid and I didn't think that football would be my first pick but I'm so glad that it is. No other sport has such a big grip on the globe. It is such a great game and has allowed me to travel the world and experience so many different places and cultures. This is just the start for me and I'm excited for the future possibilities. I hope to one [day] bring my experiences home and do whatever I can to encourage others to follow their passions, especially if it is football." When she does come home, it will be with a Serie A Championship medal, a very nice memory of her first season abroad.

League runners-up Brescia had a definite Eastern European bent, with their starting goalkeeper Camelia Cesar of Romania, who has been in Brescia for 5 years, and Polish dual defender Aleksandra Sikora and midfielder Katarzyna Daleszczyk, who both joined from local Polish league power Medyk before this season. Other imports included Nora Heroum of Finland (23), who had 3 goals in 20 games this season, and previously played in Denmark. Defender Monica Mendes (24) is a Portuguese international who played at the University of Texas at Brownsville and for the Washington Spirit Reserves in the W-League before time with clubs in Cyprus, Norway and Switzerland. American Brooke Hendrix played at the University of Southern Mississippi and played last season in Iceland with Fylkir.

Third placed Tavagnacco utilized two imports: Kaja Erzen (23) from Slovenia, who has played club in Austria, and Lana Clelland (25) from Scotland, who finished in the top 5 in scoring with 13 goals.

Sassuolo, who finished in ninth place, also had two imports, both from Romania:

defender Adina Giurgiu (23)—who won 6 titles at home at Olimpia Cluj—and midfielder Laura Rus (30), who played in 12 games. Rus won a league title in Denmark and has played in South Korea as well as in Cyprus and Spain and once trialed with Everton. Rus has long been seen as the emotional leader of the Romanian national team, which has improved in recent years, though they look well out of the World Cup running in UEFA Qualifying's Group 6 with only 4 points from 5 games, well behind Italy, Belgium and Portugal, and ahead of only Moldova.

Fiorentina, the 2016-17 Italian league champions, utilized players from Albania, England, France, Iceland and Sweden. Goalkeeper Stephanie Ohrstro of Sweden (31) played in 16 games and has played in Italy since 2010—six years with Verona and the last two in Florence. Two of the imports in Florence were young defenders from France: Precillia Rinaldi (19) and Oceane Daniel (21); the latter who played last season with Rodez in France's top league. Midfielder Greis Domi is an Albanian international while Icelandic forward Sigrun Einarsdottir (26), formerly played at home with Stjarnan, FH and Grindavik. Another import at forward has a very familiar name to football followers in the U.K: English youth international Ellie Brazil (19 years), whose father is Gary Brazil, who played primarily with Fulham and Preston North End and has coached at Notts County and Nottingham Forest. Ellie Brazil moved to Italy from Birmingham City and finished with 2 goals in 17 games for Fiorentina. In addition, Italian forward Ilaria Mauro (29), who scored 9 goals in 21 games, played 3 seasons in Germany at Turbine Potsdam and SC Sand.

Atalanta Mozzanica used two veteran imports: Swiss international goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann (32), who played in 20 games this season, and previously lined up at Verona, Fiorentina and Torres Calcio in the past as well as in Germany. Veteran Portuguese international forward Carolina Mendes (30), who scored five goals this season, has played at home, in Spain, for a few years in Russia with Rossiyanka and most recently with Djurgarden in Sweden; Mendes has won league titles in Russia (1) and Portugal with 1 de Dezembro (2).

Fimauto Valpolicella used one import, midfielder Madison (Mady) Solow from Toronto, Canada, who played at the University of California-Irvine and for Canada at the U-17 level. She played in 2015 in Iceland with Throttur Reykjavik and this season had 21 appearances and 3 goals for Fimauto Valpolicella. This was her second year with the Italian side—which is affiliated with the Serie A men's side Chievo Verona—and won the Italian Serie B title in 2016-17 with Solow as a starter. She had contract offers with ASPTT Albi and Rodez AF in France but she decided to stay in Italy and the club finished in a very respectable sixth place in their first season after promotion. Solow told Tribal Football.com that: The season for us went well. It was our first year in Serie A, so staying in the top flight was our goal. We won the games we needed to win, and then won our derby game [against Verona on February 17], which as a team, was something personally significant for us....Our president, managers and staff have big prospects for this team. Getting and staying in Serie A was a four year project they started three years ago, and have clearly done a great job tracking and carrying it out. I know being a top team in Serie A is the ultimate goal for the team and knowing the staff, I'm certain they have a precise and ambitious plan/project to achieve it." Her side finished one point ahead of their derby rivals Verona, who had 25 points and was seventh.

Solow previously explained to (underthecoshblog.com) in 2017 that her transition to playing professionally in Europe wasn't easy and she had to work through the process of finding an effective agent: "It was a hard transition for me. I wanted to play in Europe and I really didn't know how to go about things. I tried getting an agent, and unfortunately ended up with one who had no desire to help me. I took some wrong turns and lost a lot of time, but fortunately I eventually got my game footage in front of the President at Fimauto Valpolicella here in Italy and she decided to take a chance on me….I was really excited to get my first agent. It's something that makes you really feel like a professional. Unfortunately, there are a lot of agents out there (especially on the female side) who like to build up a big client roster and wait for teams to come to them. It depends who you are, an agent can contact you, or you can look up some agencies and contact them. They watch your game tape and decide if they are willing and able to help you. Unfortunately, I didn't find an agent that was right for me straight away. Although, I can say now I am very happy with my agent and she and her team are a great fit for me!"

As far as her future career, given that she just finished the season, Solow said this week to Tribal Football.com: "Next year, I am still unsure of where I'll be. I would definitely be interested in another opportunity in Europe. I would love to play in Germany, England or Sweden. These leagues are widely considered the top leagues, and they consistently prove it to be true. But, I would be willing to consider other teams that run a professional environment." Given that she is playing in a league that is rapidly improving, she said: "I think Italy is a rising league, [and at] A much higher level than most people in Europe think it is. With new teams coming in like Juventus and others as well next year, I think Serie A will become one of the most competitive leagues." She also has her national team in her focus, which when playing outside of North America, it's important to play in a top league and a competitive team "I would love to play for Canada. I think playing for your national team is every player's goal. However, I know I need to prove myself at the top level before getting an opportunity with Canada."

Verona was loaded with imports, but after a third place finish last year, was disappointed in finishing in seventh place with 25 points and only 9 points above the regelation zone. They had two imports from England including experienced defender Emma Lipman of England (29), who played for Manchester City, and Leeds native Shameeka Fishley, who played in the U.S. at tiny Davenport University in Grand Rapids Michigan. Fishley played youth football at Chelsea and Huddersfield Town. The 24-year-old midfielder had 3 goals in 22 games in her first season in Italy. She previously played for UMF Sindri Hofn in Iceland, scoring 6 goals in 17 games.

Two Americans also played at Verona, including goalkeeper Anna Rosa Buhiagas (23), who played in four games, and defender Robyn Decker (31), who has played in Sweden for 7 years--—the last two with Kvarnsveden in the Damallsvenskan, after playing at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Verona also had a pair from Greece and Bulgaria:

Ioanna Goula midfielder—Greece—18 years old

Sophia Koggouli forward—Greece—26 years old, who finished with 5 goals

Lilyana Kostova, midfielder—Bulgaria—30 years old played in Russia and Cyprus and finished joint club top scorer with Koggouli with 5 tallies.

Dessislava Dupuy, forward—Bulgaria—24 years old, who had 3 goals in 10 matches

Other imports came from Belgium, France, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden

Diede Lemey, goalkeeper—Belgium—21 years old and the primary starting goalkeeper all season

Coline Bouby, defender—France—19 years old

Riikka Hannula, forward—Finland—28 years old, who started the season at Espanyol in Spain (4 games) before transferring to Italy, where she scored 3 times in 16 games.

Florin Wagner, midfielder—Germany—23 years old, who had 3 goals this season and played last summer with Alland United in Finland and before that at Sparta Prague, after time in Germany

Julia Molin, midfielder—Sweden—28 years old who joined from Apollon in Cyprus after years with AIK and Kristianstads at home



Three more sides move on the next round of World Cup Qualifying in the Caribbean

In the first round of World Cup Qualifying from the Caribbean sub-region of CONCACAF, in Group C Trinidad and Tobago had a more difficult time than expected, given that they narrowly missed out on a spot in Canada 2015 via a last minute goal by Ecuador in the second leg at home of the CONCCAF-CONMEBOL intercontinental play-in. T&T and St, Kitts/Nevis both finished on 10 points, with 3 wins and a 1-1 tie in their crucial head-to-head match, with Trinidad also having home field advantage as the hosts of the group matches. Dominica finished in third with 4 points, the U.S. Virgin Islands were fourth with 3 points and Grenada was at the bottom with 1 point from a 1-1 tie with Dominica. T&T advanced on goal difference (+26 to +18) but the Sugar Girls had a very successful trip and St. Kitts/Nevis hopefully will be back in future tournaments and spring more surprises.

Antigua and Barbuda advanced from Group D with three wins over St. Lucia (1-0), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (1-0) and Curacao (3-0). In the crucial final game on May 27, Antigua and Barbuda defeated St. Lucia with a goal by Britney Edwards in the second minute, giving the BennaGirls a berth in the Caribbean Finals

In Group E, Bermuda upset the form books by advancing ahead of host Guyana, who imported more than half of their squad from primarily Canada (9) and the U.S. (5), as well as two players from England and one from the Singapore. Bermuda finished with 7 points from three games, with Guyana second on 5 points, Barbados third on 4, points and Suriname at the bottom with 0 points. Guyana tied Barbados 0-0 in their last match; the two dropped points were crucial as a win would have left them tied with Bermuda, plus Guyana finished with a better goal difference (+5 to +2 for Bermuda). Bermuda and Guyana had tied their match 2-2. Bermuda's Women's Side won the gold Medal when they hosted the Island Games in 2010 primarily which involves FIFA non-aligned nations.

Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda and Bermuda join Group A winner Cuba and Group B winner Jamaica in the final group in August, with the top three advancing to the CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals in October in the States.


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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