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The Week in Women's Football: Matildas friendly squad; new Wellington franchise; UCL group stage

This week we review the latest news from 2023 WWC co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, including a new W-League franchise for Wellington for the 2021/22 season which begins in mid-November, a new national team coach in New Zealand, the Matilda squad for an friendly international this month in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland, as well as Australian and New Zealand player movement to Europe, along with some other internationals changing clubs this summer.

We finish with the results of the draw earlier this week for the 16 team Group Stage in the UEFA Women's Champions League, which we have been covering extensively since the launch of the 2021-22 season in August.



Twenty-five Matildas called up for Dublin Friendly this month

Australia's women's national team, who finished in a historic fourth place in Tokyo at the Olympic Games Finals—the first time they had ever made the semifinals of a Women's World Cup or Olympics—named 25 players for their trip to Dublin on September 22 to play the Republic of Ireland in a friendly. Thirteen of the players were on W-League sides in 2021, with four of those never having been capped: Sydney FC striker Remy Siemsen, Melbourne Victory defender and captain Angela Beard and the Brisbane Roar pair of Winonah Heatley and Jaimilla Rankin. In addition, Charolotte Grant, who was in the squad for the June friendlies and went to Tokyo, has yet to take the field and make her senior debut. The defender, with Adelaide United for most of the 2020-21 W-League season, recently played in the UEFA Women's Champions League with her club side FC Rosengård of Sweden, who surprisingly fell to German Frauen-Bundesliga side Hoffenheim 6-3 on aggregate in Round 2, in the latter's WCL debut season.

Last season's Melbourne City defenders Emma Checker and Jenna McCormick (who recently moved to AGF in Denmark—see more below) were also called into the side along with Melbourne Victory midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross, who scored the winning goal in overtime in last season's Grand Final win over Sydney FC. Checker (with Selfoss of Iceland this summer), McCormick and Amy Harrison (PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands) are returning to the side as Harrison and Checker both featured in camps earlier this year, while McCormick returns for the first time since 2020.

Others who played last season in the W-League included: Emily Gielnik, who won the Golden Boot at Brisbane Roar, goalkeeper Teagan Micah of Melbourne City (but now with Rosengard of Sweden), Courtney Nevin of Western Sydney Wanderers, Clare Polkinghorne (now Vittsjo of Sweden) and Tameka Yallop (who joined West Ham United this past May) both with Brisbane Roar—all but Nevin now play abroad

The squad also features 18 of the 22 players who finished fourth at Tokyo 2020.

For other regular Matildas, midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight (Hammarby this season after a season with Kristianstads in Sweden) and defender Karly Roestbakken (LSK Kvinner of Norway) will also join the camp in the opening days to undergo assessment from Football Australia's Sports Science and Sports Medicine team. Forward Caitlin Foord (Arsenal of the WSL) will remain in England to continue her rehabilitation from injury.


Commonwealth Bank Matildas 25-player Squad | September 2021 | Training Camp and International Friendly

Name

Position

Club

Caps (goals)

Junior Club / Member Fed

Mackenzie Arnold

Goalkeeper

West Ham United (ENG)

26 (0)

Burleigh / Football QLD

Angela Beard

Defender

Fortuna Hjørring (DEN)

0 (0)

Bethania Rams / Football QLD

Ellie Carpenter

Defender

Lyon (FRA)

50 (1)

Cowra and District / Football NSW

Steph Catley

Defender

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

91 (3)

East Bentleigh, SE Cougars / Football Victoria

Emma Checker

Defender

Selfoss (ICE) / Melbourne City

7 (0)

Football SA

Kyra Cooney-Cross

Midfielder

Melbourne Victory

9 (0)

Football Victoria

Mary Fowler

Forward

Montpellier (FRA)

15 (2)

Leichhardt

Emily Gielnik

Forward

Aston Villa (ENG)

48 (11)

Redlands United / Football QLD

Charlotte Grant

Defender

FC Rosengård (SWE)

0 (0)

Football SA

Amy Harrison

Midfielder

PSV Eindhoven (NED)

13 (0)

St Marys Eaglevale / Football NSW

Winonah Heatley

Defender

Växjö (SWE)

0 (0)

Mossman and Cairns / Football QLD

Alanna Kennedy

Defender

Manchester City (ENG)

98 (8)

Campbelltown Cobras / Football NSW

Sam Kerr

Forward

Chelsea (ENG)

99 (48)

Western Knights / Football West

Chloe Logarzo

Midfielder

Kansas City (U.S.)

53 (8)

Carlingford Redbacks / Football NSW

Jenna McCormick

Defender

AGF Fodbold (DEN)

4 (0)

Blue Lake / Football SA

Teagan Micah

Goalkeeper

FC Rosengård (SWE)

7 (0)

Brisbane Blue, Brisbane Central / Football QLD

Courtney Nevin

Defender

Unattached

3 (0)

Oakville Ravens / Football NSW

Clare Polkinghorne

Defender

Vittsjö GIK (SWE)

135 (11)

Wynnum Wolves, Capalaba / Football QLD

Jamilla Rankin

Defender

Brisbane Roar

0 (0)

Eureka FC / Northern NSW

Hayley Raso

Forward

Manchester City (ENG)

56 (6)

Banora Point / Football QLD

Kyah Simon

Forward

Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)

101 (26)

Quakers Hill, Hills Brumbies / Football NSW

Remy Siemsen

Forward

Sydney FC

0 (0)

Manly United / Football NSW

Emily van Egmond

Midfielder

Unattached

108 (23)

Dudley-Redhead / Northern NSW Football

Lydia Williams

Goalkeeper

Arsenal (ENG)

91 (0)

Tuggeranong, Woden Valley / Capital Football

Tameka Yallop

Midfielder

West Ham United (ENG)

96 (11)

Mudgeeraba / Football Queensland



New Zealand's Wellington Phoenix joins W-League for the 2021-22 season

In a move that almost happened ahead of last season, Wellington Phoenix has become the tenth member of the W-League and will join for the 2021/22 season. With the expansion to New Zealand, the W-League becomes a rarity—a league with teams from two Confederations, with the AFC for Australia and Oceania for New Zealand—as has been done for years with Wellington (and before that Auckland) in the men's A-League. It is a benefit for the league as it increases the number of games by about one-fourth in the season (57 to 74) and creates an immediate infusion of competition and excitement. This move will help to further develop the game in New Zealand and throughout Oceania. Western United (from the Western Melbourne suburb of Truganina, who will work closely with local NPLW powerhouse Calder United) and Central Coast Mariners (who competed in the W-League during the first two years of the league and are based north of Sydney in New South Wales) are expected to join for the 2022-23 season, which will fulfill a commitment by the Australian Professional Leagues—who took over administrating the two professional leagues from the federation last year—to ensure that every A-League club has a W-League franchise as well. Talks continue with Macarthur Rams (in Suburban Sydney), whose coach is Ante Milicic, the former manager of the Matildas at the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Under the teams of the agreement, Wellington must have seven players on their roster who are Australian, while up to four additional ones can be visa players (imports from other countries) The Phoenix Women's team will be run as a partnership with the New Zealand Football Federation and will likely play in New South Wales because of the ongoing COVID pandemic—at least to start the season—with Wollongong in New South Wales the proposed site last year.

Tom Sermanni, who was a driver of the launch of the W-league when he coached the Matildas and just recently stepped aside as the Football Ferns head coach and lives full time in Australia, said, "There are so many advantages to this, for the league, for the players and for football overall. Expansion is fantastic, but it has to be done in a way that is considered and builds the existing competition. A Phoenix team will do just that. With so many foreign players unable to come here [particularly from the NWSL due to COVID-driven schedule changes from both leagues] we have a lot of young Australian players getting their chance, which is great—but they need high-quality opponents to drive up standards. Having a Wellington team that could include a number of New Zealand internationals will lift the quality of the W-League and give those young players exactly the sort of competition they need to improve. It's easy to get carried away and try to expand in a way that's not sustainable. If you get it right, each team adds substance to the league, different challenges for the players and lifts the quality."

From the New Zealand perspective, he added that by adding Wellington to the league, "It expands the W-League's outlook and influence towards Oceania. I'm delighted this is happening, and that we will see further growth in seasons to come."



Football Ferns Select Veteran International and former Australian Club Coach Jitka Klimkova to replace the now retired Tom Sermanni

Last month the New Zealand Football Federation named Jitka Klimková as the new Football Ferns head coach through the 2027 Women's World Cup, after Tom Sermanni retired following his stint in guiding the Football Ferns to the 2019 WWC and 2020 Olympic Games Finals. Klimková is a UEFA Pro License holder and W-League winner with Canberra United in 2011/12 as the head coach and was also head coach of New Zealand's U-17's at the FIFA age group Women's World Cup in 2014; she has also served as assistant coach to the Women's U-20s and the Football Ferns.

A former defender for the Czech Republic, Klimková was appointed the United States Women's U-19 coach in 2015 and was part of the staff of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup winning USWNT. She was also head coach of the United States Women's U-20 side at the FIFA 2018 U-20 Women's World Cup in France, where surprisingly the Americans did not make it out of the group stage.

New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said, "We're delighted to appoint a coach of Jitka's caliber to lead the Football Ferns into preparations for the home 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup and beyond. She is known to many of the Football Ferns, having previously served as head coach of the U-17s and as assistant coach of the U-20s and senior Football Ferns; she has a real understanding of New Zealand's football ecosystem.

Klimková (47) said upon her signing, "I'm so honoured and proud to be the Football Ferns' head coach. I can't wait to meet the players, to meet the coaches, to meet the employees of New Zealand Football. It's going to be an amazing journey. Our goal is to win our first ever games during the World Cup. And what is the better timing than at home on our home soil?" Currently based in the Czech Republic, Klimková will relocate to Aotearoa New Zealand to take up the role. Klimková will officially begin her tenure as Football Ferns head coach in October.



Australians and New Zealand internationals in Europe


Jenna McCormick moves to Denmark

Australian international defender Jenna McCormick, who was with the side which qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games from the Asian Football Federation, moved this summer to the Danish Elitedivisionen to play with AGF Fodbold in Aarhus. McCormick, who previously won a league title in Iceland with Starjnan and played in Norway and briefly in Spain in 2020-21 with Real Betis, as well as for a number of clubs at home (last season at Melbourne City after time with Brisbane Roar, Canberra United, Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory), is playing for AGF head coach Katrine Pedersen, who was once a teammate of hers at Adelaide United in 2014. Last season, after the W-League campaign with City in the W-League, she played with South Melbourne in the Victorian state league—NPLW. She said about her move back to Europe, "Settling in has been an absolute breeze. The people here are so lovely and welcoming, it's made it a really easy transition, which I'm really grateful for….Luckily for me, the restrictions of COVID are almost non-existent. The high vaccination rates have allowed Denmark to re-open the city and it's just buzzing which is so nice to be around. I hope Australia can get to that point too, sooner rather than later."

Jenna McCormick for AGF Fodbold (Source: @AGFFodbold Twitter)Australian international defender Jenna McCormick in action for AGF Fodbold (Source: @AGFFodbold Twitter)


McCormick said that the Danish language has been a bit of a challenge, but, "I am taking classes and trying my best to get the hang of it. I'm lucky enough here that 99% of people speak English so there are no language barriers, which has really enriched my experience as well. It's nice to get to know people on a deeper level, which makes you feel more comfortable as well."

McCormick was named to the squad to face Ireland in Dublin later this month (see above). A two-time AFLW Champion with the Adelaide Crows, she put her Australian Rules Football Career on hold to concentrate on soccer pursue a national team spot a few years ago. So far this season, AGF sits fifth in the eight team league with a 2-1-3 (W-D-L) record for 7 points, 11 behind leaders and reigning champions Koge.

Other Australians in Denmark include Fortuna Hjorring's 19-year-old Indiah-Paige Riley (ex Brisbane Roar)—who qualifies to play at the full national team level for both 2023 WWC co-hosts Australia and New Zealand—and defender Alex Huynh (27), who joined the Danish club after a year with Napoli, playing in 14 games following the 2019-20 season with Western Sydney Wanderers. She was capped once this year in the 5-2 loss to Germany in April and played collegiately in the States at the University of Colorado and Troy University in Alabama. Paige-Riley has played in six games thus far this season after scoring three goals in 19 games last season. Fortuna is two points behind Koge in the title race on 16 points from five wins and one tie in six games.



Emily Gielnik moves to Aston Villa while Alanna Kennedy and Hayley Raso join Manchester City

In other Matilda moves, Emily Gielnik moved from Vittsjo GIK in Sweden to the WSL's Aston Villa just before the summer transfer window ended and should be a big boost to the side that struggled to score last season, scoring only 15 times in 22 games and finishing in a tie for ninth with a 3-6-13 (W-D-L) record for 15 points, but only 3 points above then relegated Bristol City. Two games into this season and Villa is undefeated with a win and a tie from two games and is currently in fifth place. With Vittsjo so far this season, she had 4 goals in 14 games after scoring 8 in 16 last season in Sweden, sandwiching a stint with Roar where she led the league in scoring with 13 goals in 12 games.

Defender Alanna Kennedy (26) moved from Tottenham—who finished in eighth place last season—to Manchester City in a very high-profile move. Kennedy had 19 appearances with the Spurs last season, scoring once from the back. She will join Matilda teammate Hayley Raso (27), who moved from Everton in the WSL over the summer to City on a two year contract. She scored 5 goals in 22 WSL matches last season for the Liverpool club. Both players were on the Olympic Games Finals side this summer. Unfortunately for both players, their WCL run was short-lived, after falling to Real Madrid by a single goal in the Round of 32, and they will have to focus on domestic league and FC Cup titles this season. Raso said about the move, "I'm just so excited to be here at this huge club. Having played in the WSL last season, I really liked the league – it's very tough and competitive and being able to come to a team like City, who are up there fighting for all the trophies and playing in the Champions League, it's an opportunity I couldn't turn down." Raso played at home with Canberra United, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory and in the NWSL with the Washington Spirit (1 season) and the Portland Thorns (4 years), totaling 13 goals and 7 assists in 81 regular season and playoff games.


Tameka Yallop and Japanese international Yui Hasegawa join West Ham United

For West Ham United, in addition to the recent signing of Australian international goalkeeper Anna Leat—who played collegiately at Georgetown University: (see: The Week in Women's Football: Simon joins Spurs; UWS players abroad; New W-League teams - Tribal Football), the club inked midfielder Tameka (Butt) Yallop from the Brisbane Roar. Yallop has played for clubs in Canada, the States, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Norway and at home. She joins second year Australian international goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold (27) with the Hammers, who made 16 appearances last season in goal following her move from Brisbane Roar at the end of the 2019/20 W-League season. In terms of other internationals joining West Ham, besides Scottish international forward Lisa Evan moving cross-town from Arsenal last month (see: The Week in Women's Football: What's next for Canada; Evans leaves Arsenal; U.S tournaments - Tribal Football), the club inked Japanese international midfielderYui Hasegawa to a two-year contract. Hasegawa (24) moves from Italian club Milan, where she scored 3 goals in 9 games last season after a move from Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza at home. She is nearing a half century in caps (currently on 45). She joins Arsenal's Mana Iwabuchi as the two active imports in the WSL.

Note: We previously discussed that fellow Matilda Kyah Simon was leaving PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands to join Spurs this season (see: The Week in Women's Football: Simon joins Spurs; UWS players abroad; New W-League teams - Tribal Football) where she joins New Zealand international defender Ria Percival, who is in her third season with Spurs, following a year at West Ham, after leaving USV Jena in Germany following a four season stint.



Aivi Luik Moves from Spain's Sevilla to join Pomilgliano in Italy

Australian international midfielder Aivi Luik joins Italian Serie A newcomer Pomilgliano d'Arco in Italy for the 2021-22 season, after moving from Sevilla in Spain. The club finished second last season in Serie Band was promoted along with second division champions Lazio of Rome. This season is very important for the club as three clubs in the 12 team league will face relegation. Luik will add calmness and poise in the defensive half of the field. The well-traveled defender, Luik (36) won five league titles at home with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City and has played in Iceland, England, Norway, Sweden, Spain and now Italy, as well as in the U.S. and Canada in the W League with FC Indiana and Ottawa Fury, respectively, helping FCI to two U.S. Open Cups and two WPSL titles along with a USL W League finals appearance.

Joining Luik at Pomilgliano will be Cameroonian international defender Augustine Ejangue (32), who played in the 2012 Olympic Games Finals and the 2015 and 2019 WWC. At the club level, she has played at the club level in Russia, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and recently moved from Ebolowa FC in Cameroon.



Other International Signings by European Clubs

In other European player signing news, American international Tobin Heath signed with Arsenal just before the summer transfer window ended. She will be able to play in the Champions League this season. She played in 2020-21 with Manchester United, which finished fourth and missed one of the three spots allocated to England in the revised WCL format this season. Heath (33), who says that she is a lifetime Gunners fan, was out of contract and free to join the side without any obligations. Heath was injured in the second half of the WSL season after scoring four goals in eight games but won an Olympic Bronze Medal this summer with the Americans. Her NWSL rights were held by expansion side Racing Louisville and rumors had her going to 2022 expansion side Angel City FC of Los Angeles (who her former Man United and U.S. WNT fellow forward Christen Press just signed with) in the NWSL.

Steph Labbe, Canada's goalkeeping hero from their Olympic Games Final Gold Medal win this summer, has moved from Rosengard in Sweden to Paris St. Germain in France in one of the most high-profile moves of the summer. Labbe (34) played in Sweden in the past with Pitea, Orebro, Linkoping and then last season with Rosengard, as well as in the NWSL with the Washington Spirit (2 seasons) and North Carolina Courage (2 seasons). Labbé joined Rosengard earlier this season where she made 10 appearances for the club. She also played one summer in the UWS with Calgary Foothills in Alberta (she is from the Edmonton area) after being denied by FIFA rules a chance to play on Calgary's amateur men's side in the USL Premier Development League, after trialing and practicing with the team. An online petition campaign against her exclusion quickly garnered over 7,500 signatures. She will replace French international Constance Picaud (23), who moved from Le Havre in the off-season to PSG, but is out with an ACL tear in her right knee. German U-20 international keeper Charlotte Voll (22) has only played in 2 games this season in her fourth season with PSG and Voll should become the backup to Labbe. Voll was originally reported to be going on loan this season to Reims.

Also joining PSG late in the close season was Czech Republic international goalkeeper Barbora Votikova, who moved from Slavia Prague, where she won three league titles. She has appeared in a few movies, written a book on her life and is a well-known social media celebrity at home.

Other Eastern European internationals switching clubs this summer include 24-year-old Romanian international forward Cristina Carp, who won 5 league titles at home with Olimpia Cluj, moving from Lugano in Switzerland to Sampdoria in Italy. Carp has played in the country before with Pink Sport Bari in 2019-20, scoring four goals in 16 games and then moved to Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark in 2020-21 (scoring 2 goals in 11 games).

Also moving to Italy is Ukrainian international defender Darya Kravets (27), who previously played in Russia with Zorkiy and Mordovoch, BIIK Shymkent in Kazakhstan (winning two league titles) and was with Stade de Reims in France for the past two seasons but has joined Fiorentina. Reims finished tied for sixth in 2020-21 on a 9-3-10 record for 30 points, but finished fifth among the 12 top division teams on goals with 34. She has over 50 caps for Ukraine and also was a U-17 and U-19 international

Doris Bačić (26), a Croatian international goalkeeper who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaves Juventus to join Sporting Lisbon of Portugal. At Juve, she won two league titles and has moved about frequently to trial/play with clubs in Belgium, Germany, Iceland (the third division), Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia—as well as a short spell in England in Arsenal in 2013-14, where she was unable to receive a work permit and left the club for trials elsewhere in Europe. She should receive a lot of playing time for her new club, ambitious Sporting Lisbon.

Nina Kajzba (17) a Slovenian international forward, moved from Pomurje in the Slovenian domestic league to Roma in Italy, after scoring 32 goals in 14 games last season and winning the league title. She received a full cap earlier this year in April in a 5-0 home win for Slovenia over Slovakia. With a strong domestic goal scoring record, she could be a revelation for Roma.

Midfielder Thaisa de Moraes Rosa Moreno (32) also moved to Roma after two seasons with CD Tacon/Real Madrid at Spain. She had played in Italy in 2018-19 with Milan after 8 games in 2018 with Sky Blue FC [now NJ/NY Gotham FC] in the NWSL. She has played in Iceland and Sweden as well as at home and won the Copa America Femenina in Chile and the Women's Pan American Games in 2015 with the national team. She also played on the last two WWC sides in France and Canada, respectively.

Cecilia Ran Runarsdottir (18) from Iceland played 6 games for KIF Orebro in Sweden after two years at Fylkir at home; she has been capped at the full and U-17 level and recently completed a transfer to Everton in the English WSL, but will move at the end of the year after the Damallsvenskan 2021 season is complete and the transfer window opens again. She won a third division title with her original club UMF Afturelding in Iceland after moving up from the academy. She is expected to provide competition for English international Alexandra MacIver (23)—who has started in both games for the Liverpool club this season (consecutive 4-0 losses to champions Chelsea and challengers Manchester City)—and backup and Republic of Ireland international Courtney Brosnan (25), who moved from West Ham in the off-season.



UEFA Women's Champions League Group Stage Draw

UEFA completed the draw for the UEFA Women's Champions League 16 team Group Stage on September 13 as follows:

Group A: Chelsea (England), Wolfsburg (Germany) Juventus (Italy), Servette (Switzerland)
Group B: Paris Saint Germain (France), Breidablik (Iceland), Real Madrid (Spain), WFC Kharkiv (Ukraine)
Group C: Barcelona (Spain), Arsenal (England), Hoffenheim (Germany), HB Koge (Denmark)
Group D: Bayern Munich (Germany), Lyon (France), Hacken (Sweden), Benfica (Portugal)

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 yours copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey


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