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The Week in Women's Football: Nigeria hire new Swedish manager; Israel & Finland's World Cup qualifier; Boston Breakers dispersal draft;

We review news about Nigeria's new European import Women's National Team Head Coach, some news from Sweden's top two women's leagues ahead of the 2018 seasons starting in March and from their national team's friendly tour of South Africa and some NWSL news on the Boston Breakers dispersal draft and player signings. We also look at the one UEFA Women's World Cup Qualifier during the winter season between Israel and Finland.



Sweden's Thomas Dennerby will lead Nigeria's National Team

We talked a few weeks ago about Nigeria's Football Federation botching the hire of former Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum to lead the national team: (http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-nigeria-hiring-new-national-team-coach-bayern-munich-wolfsburg-get-new-recruits-indian-women-s-league-ready-for-round-two-4214494). Waldrum took a job with the University of Pittsburgh when he had not heard anything from the Federation for weeks and now the NFF seems to be trying to improve their commitment to the women's national team by hiring Sweden's well-respected former national team coach Thomas Dennerby. Dennerby has signed through the 2020 Olympics and previously led Sweden's women's national team from 2005 to 2012, with the high point being a third place finish at the 2011 World Cup in Germany.Dennerby also took the Swedes to the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where Sweden was knocked out in the quarter-finals on both occasions. Dennerby also won club league titles in Sweden as head coach with both a men's and women's team.

NFF Vice-President Shehu Dikko explained their decision to hire Dennerby by focusing on three reasons: "To sustain and enhance the Super Falcons' dominance on the African scene. To take the Falcons and other women's teams to the next level of challenging for laurels at global competitions like the Olympics and the World Cup. To generally lay the foundation for the real development of women's football in our country." Dennerby's credentials in the women's game are top notch, but he will have to do well quickly to curtail a potential backlash of preferring a foreign coach to a Nigerian coach—who have always won CAF titles—such as an experienced local coach or a former national team player who is now coaching.

Nigeria will play France in a friendly in April, followed by the 2018 Africa Women's Cup of Nations in neighboring Ghana, which doubles as the 2019 WWC qualifying tournament. Nigeria has participated in all seven previous Women's World Cups, but only advanced from the group stage once, in 1999 in the States—incidentally when they were coached by Nigerian Ismaila Mabo—falling to Brazil 4-3 in extra time in the Quarter Finals.



Sweden League/National Team News

As Swedish clubs prepare for the 2018 season as well as the national team players balance World Cup qualifying, Hammarby will move their May 27 Stockholm derby versus Djurgarden to the Tele2Arena in southern Stockholm which opened in 2013 as an all-purpose stadium for multiple sports, including football and hockey, in an attempt to break the Damallsvenskan all-time attendance record of 9,413, held by Linkopings FC. Pitea, the northernmost club in the country, will move their June 16 tie against Rosengard to Kiruna, 400 kilometers north and above the Arctic Circle, planning a 10 pm kickoff. With the sun above the horizon nearly the entire day around the Summer Solstice, lights should not be needed.

Former Rosengard and Canadian international goalkeeper Erin McLeod moved to Germany's USV Jena rather than returning to the NWSL, where she played in Houston and Chicago for three seasons, because as she said on her Instagram page: "My initial thought after the politics involved with my last season was to go back to North America--I admire the growth of that league but the bonus of playing in Europe is you are in control of where you go as a player. The one that owns yours rights is you; the way it should be in my opinion. For now this decision is the best for my career and again I'm so grateful for the team being so welcoming and for a staff that believes in me... here we go."

Amanda Nilden, a Swedish U-19 international, has left AIK and hopes to sign with English WSL 2 side Brighton and Hove Albion, where her boyfriend has signed with the men's side.

International players joining the Damallsvenskan include 23-year-old Norwegian international youth forward Kristin Haugstad, who has joined IFK Kalmar (a promoted club for 2018) after playing collegiately in the U.S. at La Salle University in Pennsylvania. Pitea has signed Norwegian U-19 youth international Andrea Norheim from Lyon of France, which could be an inspiring pickup for the side in the far North. Finnish international midfielder Annika Kukkonen (27), who has been playing professionally in Sweden for the past seven years, has left Djugarden of Stockholm for Sunnana to join the coaching staff. Eskilstuna United signed Nigerian midfielder Sonia Okobi—who played a few games for the Washington Spirit in 2015—from Vittsjo, who also saw their long-term defender and Scottish international Ifeoma Dieke move to join Kalmar. Nigerian international midfielder Osinache Ohale extended her contract with Vittsjo after her first year in Sweden; she played for the NWSL's Houston Dash in their inaugural year in 2014.

On the national team front, Sweden defeated South Africa last month 3-0 after a long trip to find good weather and a solid opponent. Forward Loreta Kullashi of Linkopings scored twice. She told EuroSport correspondent Marcus Buhlund—a seasoned follower of the women's game worldwide—that she had turned down offers to play for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina at international level through her parents because she wanted to play for Sweden: "Because I'm Swedish." With the expansion in the number of teams in the last editions of the World Cups and EUROs, more countries will continue to explore players in top leagues in Europe and elsewhere who qualify to play through their parents and grandparents, to help fast-track the growth of their national teams programs. Sweden also played an unofficial match before the official match (comprised of 3 30 minute periods) versus the South Africans, and won 4-1 thanks to goals by Kullashi, as well as Mimmi Larsson (Eskilstuna United DFF), Lina Hurtig (Linkopings) and Stina Blackstenius (Montpellier of France).



NWSL News—Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft and Player Moves

The Boston Breakers, whose franchise was shut down by the NWSL for continuing financial problems by the ownership, held a league-wide dispersal draft on January 30. There were a flurry of trades between teams before the draft, some involving players while others involved Dispersal Draft positioning in exchange for future College Draft selections, indicating the interest that the other 9 teams had in Boston's players. Indeed, despite the fact that the Breakers finished at the bottom of the table for two years running, most of the 21 players, all four 2018 Draft Choices and 6 retired players were selected.

Only two current players and two retired players were not selected, notably including English international forward Natasha Dowie and Swedish international Louise Schillgard, who has played in Spain, Australia, England (with Liverpool) and at home (including with Linkopings). U.S. international, 2017 rookie and number one College Draft Pick Rose Lavelle was selected by the Washington Spirit while 2018 top pick Savannah McCaskill was picked by Sky Blue FC. Former Breaker and Australian international Kyah Simon (now with Melbourne City) was selected by the Utah Royals. Other 2015 Women's World Cup players picked included Rosie White of New Zealand (Chicago), Allysha Chapman of Canada (North Carolina) and Adriana Leon of Canada (Sky Blue FC) and Elizabeth Addo of Ghana (Seattle). Addo has played professionally in Serbia, Hungary and for the last two years in Sweden's top league with Kvarnsvedens IK. Addo, a 24 year old forward, had 5 goals in 19 matches last season.

Other notable selections included:

Lotta Okvist, a 20-year-old midfielder with Pieta of Sweden, who had signed to play with Boston this season, was selected by the Houston Dash.

Katie Stengel, a U.S. youth international who played in the 2012 U-20 World Cup in Japan which the Americans won, spent time with Germany's Bayern Munich (9 goals in 20 matches) and has 10 goals this season with the Newcastle Jets in Australia's Westfield W-League, was picked by Utah.
Former Liverpool, Portuguese international and Tribal Football.com correspondent Amanda Da Costa was selected by Utah, even though she retired last summer to attend graduate school (http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-exclusive-interview-with-ex-liverpool-star-da-costa-uswnt-roster-announced-matildas-triumph-over-brazil-in-sydney-4199828).





2018 Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft Results

-- Round 1 --

Player

Team

No. 1

Lavelle, Rose (FED - USA)

Washington Spirit (via NJ)

No. 2

McCaskill, Savannah

Sky Blue FC (via WAS)

No. 3

Oyster, Megan

Seattle Reign FC

No. 4

Purce, Margaret

Portland Thorns FC

No. 5

Smith, Abby

Utah Royals FC

No. 6

Simon, Kyah (INTL - AUS)

Houston Dash

No. 7

White, Rosie (INTL - NZL)

Chicago Red Stars

No. 8

Addo, Elizabeth (INTL - GHA)

Seattle Reign FC (via ORL)

No. 9

King, Julie

North Carolina Courage

-- Round 2 --

Player

Team

No. 10

Chapman, Allysha (FED - CAN)

North Carolina Courage

No. 11

Andrews, Morgan

Seattle Reign FC (via ORL)

No. 12

Miller, Ashton

Chicago Red Stars

No. 13

Okvist, Lotta (INTL - SWE)

Houston Dash

No. 14

Stengel, Katie

Utah Royals FC

No. 15

Salem, Angela

Portland Thorns FC

No. 16

Westphal, Christen

Seattle Reign FC

No. 17

Wenger, Elizabeth

Washington Spirit

No. 18

Leon, Adriana (INTL - CAN)

Sky Blue FC

-- Round 3 --

Player

Team

No. 19

Frisbie, Amanda

Sky Blue FC

No. 20

Weimer, Tiffany

Washington Spirit

No. 21

Elston, Lindsay

Seattle Reign FC

No. 22

Onumonu, Ifeoma

Portland Thorns FC

No. 23

Elby, Brooke

Utah Royals FC

No. 24

Prudhomme, Sammy Jo

Houston Dash

No. 25

Boyles, Joanna

Chicago Red Stars

No. 26

Pass

Orlando Pride

No. 27

Pass

North Carolina Courage

-- Round 4 --

Player

Team

No. 28

Pass

North Carolina Courage

No. 29

Pass

Orlando Pride

No. 30

Engen, Whitney

Chicago Red Stars

No. 31

Pass

Houston Dash

No. 32

DaCosta, Amanda

Utah Royals FC

No. 33

Pass

Portland Thorns FC

No. 34

Pass

Seattle Reign FC

No. 35

Pass

Washington Spirit

No. 36

Pass

Sky Blue FC

-- Round 5 --

Player

Team

No. 37

Pass

Sky Blue FC

No. 38

Pass

Washington Spirit

No. 39

Pass

Seattle Reign FC

No. 40

Pass

Portland Thorns FC

No. 41

Pass

Utah Royals FC

No. 42

Pass

Houston Dash

No. 43

Pass

Chicago Red Stars



The following players were not selected in the draft:

Contracted Players
Hayley Dowd
Natasha Dowie (INTL-ENG)

Retired Players
Mollie Pathman
Louise Schillgard (INTL-SWE)


Other NWSL player moves saw Australian international winger Steph Catley (Melbourne City) move from Orlando to Seattle in exchange for U.S. international midfielders Carson Pickett (currently with Brisbane Roar on loan) and Christine Nairn. In another deal, Seattle acquired American forward Jasmyne Spencer from Orlando for goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer and their third round pick in the 2019 draft.

Spencer has been in the NWSL since the inaugural 2013 season, when she played for the Washington Spirit. After spending the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the Western New York Flash, the Pride selected Spencer in the NWSL Expansion Draft. Spencer has made 40 appearances for Orlando, scoring seven goals and providing four assists. Spencer played 3 years in Australia, scoring 12 goals in 37 matches for Sydney FC and Canberra United from 2014 through last season. Pickett was Seattle's 6th overall draft pick in the 2016 NWSL draft and made 36 appearances with one assist in her two seasons with the club.

Nairn returned to Seattle Reign FC in 2017 after playing for them in their inaugural year of 2013; she scored one goal and providing four assists in 23 appearances last season. She played three seasons in Washington, including making the 2016 NWSL final. Haley Kopmeyer has been with Seattle Reign FC since its inaugural 2013 season. She made 47 appearances, totaling 185 saves, during her five seasons with the club. Kopmeyer helped the club set an NWSL record for most consecutive shutouts with five during the 2016 season. Kopmeyer is currently playing in Australia with Canberra United and played with Brisbane Roar in 2015/16

Seattle has also released one European international and signed another. Danish international defender Theresa Nielsen (31) was signed for the 2018 season this week. She played for Vålerenga Fotball Damer in Norway last season and previously spent her entire professional career with Brøndby IF of the Elitedivisionen in Denmark. In 22 appearances for Valerenga, Nielsen tallied 2 goals. With Brondby she won four league crowns and five cups. Internationally, Nielsen made her debut for Denmark in 2008 and played all six matches of last summer's EUROs campaign, where Denmark finished second to host Netherlands; Nielsen scored one goal and was named to the tournament's Best XI. Nielsen said about her move to the NWSL: "I'm very grateful to be getting the opportunity to play for Reign FC. The U.S. has some of the greatest players in the world, and I'm very excited that I'll be blessed with the chance to play with and against them."

The Reign waived defender Rachel Corsie of Scotland. Corsie signed with Reign FC prior to the 2015 NWSL season from Notts County in England. In Seattle, she played in 42 games with three goals and one assist.

The Reign also signed former Portland Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who spent the 2013 season with Seattle. Betos left the Thorns after the 2016 season for Norway, where she played with Valerenga—playing with Nielsen, who finished seventh in the 12 team league and losing the Cup Final to Avaldsnes 1-0.

The Orlando Pride has acquired 2015 Women's World Cup winner Sydney Leroux from the Utah Royals for a 2019 First Round College Draft Pick. Leroux, only 27, scored six goals with two assists in 23 games last season after missing 2016 for maternity leave. Head Coach Tom Sermanni coached Leroux when he coached the U.S. National Team and she could be a revelation this season, teaming with Marta and U.S. international teammate Alex Morgan on the offensive side.

Goalkeeper Casey Murphy (ex-Rutgers University), who was picked by Sky Blue FC in the second round of the 2018 College Draft last month, signed with Montpellier of France. Sky Blue FC still retains her NWSL rights.



Israel-Finland World Cup Qualifier

UEFA World Cup Qualifying's only match between November and March was on January 22, which Israel and Finland tie 0-0 in Ramat Gan. It was Israel's first point in 5 games and they are still at the bottom of Group 7 behind Serbia with 3 points. Finland moved to second on 7 points from 3 games, 2 pts behind leaders Spain and 1 ahead of now third place Switzerland.

Tribal Football.com talked to Israel National Team Striker Lee Falkon this week. She is currently completing her first season in Australia with Westfield W-League side Western Sydney Wanderers after playing professionally in Germany and Denmark. Falkon did not play in the Finland game or the two previous World Cup Qualifiers because of her time in Australia. The games did not fall within a FIFA international window and the extensive travel and jet lag on short notice is not optimal for the physical training staff so she has focused on the W-League games this winter. She will be available for Israel's games this spring and is considering where she will play in 2018.

Note: Next week, in our 2017/18 Westfield W-League Regular Season Final Review, we will have more on our interview with Falkon as she discusses the differences in Australia's style of play versus European leagues and her hopes for the further development of the women's game in Israel.




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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