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The Week in Women’s Football: USA clinch SheBelieves Cup, Australia continue strong form ahead of Rio 2016

This week we have the final day results from the SheBelieves Cup National Team Tournament in the U.S. with England, France and Germany, review the last two match days of the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Japan and look at the finals of the CONCACAF U-17 Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Grenada.


The reigning World Cup Champions continued their winning ways in capturing the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday March 9 with a 2-1 defeat of Germany in Boca Raton, Florida. Anja Mittag (Paris St. Germain) gave the visitors the lead in the 29th minute but the U.S. quickly tied the game through a piece of brilliant creativity from forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), chipping the ball over German defender and captain Saskia Bartusiak (1 FFC Frankfurt) in the 35th minute and slotting it past goalkeeper Almuth Schult (Vfl Wolfsburg). Megan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns) fed a long ball into Morgan's path and while Bartiusiak was well positioned on Morgan's goal side, the American striker's inspirational move allowed her to move goal side of the defender with only Schult to beat. Sam Mewis (WNY Flash) scored the winner in the 39th minute. Youngsters Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (UCLA in the fall) and Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns) all had strong tournaments and—at this point—look like cinches for the 18-women final roster for the Olympic Squad for August. The doubleheader attracted 13,501 on a warm Wednesday evening.

England and France were scoreless in their match, leaving both teams tied for third with only one point in the tournament, as both sides lost both their matches to Germany and the U.S. (England did have the advantage over France in scoring 1 goal in 3 games versus 0 for the French). England lost to the U.S. 1-0 and 2-1 to Germany. France lost to the U.S. by identical 1-0 scores. Forward Eniola Aluko won her 100th cap for the national team in the match. England manager Mark Sampson was pleased with his side's participation in the new tournament and that it will provide them a good foundation ahead of more Euro 2017 Qualifiers this spring (with games against Belgium and Bosnia & Herzegovina next month)—England currently is undefeated after two games in their group. Sampson explained: “We are a lot closer [to USA, Germany and France]. We have just got to keep chipping away at these teams and we'll get there. The whole world knows that we are in a better place than we were 10 days ago. That's one flying day, one rest day, three training sessions and three matches. That's how much this team have grown in that period. We've got the European Championship to focus on now and we'll give that our best shot. We want to try and win some matches and we know that by the time the Euros come around we'll be there or thereabouts."

She Believes Cup Final Table

Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts. 

United States 3 3 0 0 4 1 +3 9 

Germany 3 2 1 0 4 3 +1 6 

England 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2 1

France 3 0 2 1 0 2 -2 1 


In the Asian Football Confederation Olympic Qualifying Final Tournament, Australia and China assured their berths in this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after four matches. On Monday March 7, group leaders Australia defeated DPR Korea 2-1, with goals from Michelle Heyman (18') and Katrina Gorry (83'), after Kim Su-gyong tied the match for DPR Korea in the 78th minute. Australia, with four wins in their four matches, will make their third appearance out of six Olympic Games involving women's football and their first since 2004 in Greece. Head Coach Alen Stajcic said after the match: “This is a night of celebration, it's one of the great nights of Australian football and I want the whole of Australia to realize just how big an achievement this is." He emphasized that just making the Olympics is not the end goal for his side: “I've said all along that our goal is not just to reach Rio but to win a medal and this is the first step in reaching that target. On Wednesday we face China in the final match here and that's now the next step on the path to an Olympic gold medal." He added that he thought that the Asian Confederation is “the toughest confederation in the world…and we'll aim to make all of Asia proud of us and our efforts."

China clinched their berth, also on March 7, with a 1-0 defeat of Korea Republic. Wang Shanshan scored the only goal in the 43rd minute as China remained undefeated in the competition, losing only two points in a draw to DPR Korea. China returns to the Olympics, which they have participated in every four years except in 2012. Their French coach Bruno Bini said that the crucial moment of the tournament was when Wang Shuang scored from the penalty spot late into injury time in their second match, which tied the game against DPR Korea: “The biggest thing was the match against DPR Korea, because we equalized in the last minute. If we hadn't made it 1-1 at the end of that match then we maybe wouldn't have been able to win against Japan in the next game."

In the other game on match day 4, Japan blasted Vietnam 6-1 in the battle of two sides who had yet to win a game in their three previous respective games in the tournament. Mana Iwabuchi (Bayern Munich), Shinobu Ono (INAC Kobe Leonessa and ex-Arsenal and Lyon), Nahomi Kawasaumi (INAC Kobe Leonessa and ex-Seattle Reign), Emi Nakajima (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Yuki Ogimi (1 FFC Frankfurt and ex-Chelsea) and Kumi Yokoyama (AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies) all scored for the 2015 World Cup Finalists. Huynh Nhu scored Vietnam's only goal of the competition from the penalty spot, which tied the game for a few minutes before Ono's goal gave Japan a 2-1 edge at the break. Japan's final four goals came in the last ten minutes of the match.

On March 9, 2016 (match day 5), Australia and China both finished the tournament undefeated after their 1-1 tie, but Australia finished ahead of China (13 points to 11) with only one tie against China's two. In their final match in the Osaka tournament, Emily Van Egmond scored her third goal in five games with a long range blast in the 85th minute, knotting the score after Ma Xiaoxu's 16th minute header for China. Kyah Simon won the tournament Golden Boot with four goals while Van Egmond and Michelle Heyman were joint second with 3 goals.

Japan won their second game of the tournament defeating DPR Korea 1-0 on substitute Mana Iwabuchi's (Bayern Munich) late goal with 10 minutes left. Japan finished the tournament in third with seven points, but a poor start left them 4 points adrift of second place China. One immediate fall out from Japan's failure to make their fourth consecutive Olympics was that head coach Norio Sasaki (57) announced that he is stepping down. Sasaki has coached the side since 2008 and propelled Japan to the very pinnacle of the women's game, winning the World Cup in 2011 and then making the Final of the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup, where they lost to the U.S. both times. He explained his decision: “Leaving the team doesn't mean that I lose all responsibility for us not qualifying. Now the players have to look ahead to future competitions…The thing I hope I've left is a feeling that this team has the possibility of achieving something. We weren't able to do it this time, but the team will come back." There is already speculation of who will replace Sasaki in this high profile job. One name mentioned in Europe is current Swedish and former U.S. national women's team coach Pia Sundhage, who looks set to resign after the Rio Olympics, which her team qualified for last week in the European play in round over the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. Sundhage was an assistant coach for China's national side before their 2007 Women's World Cup but returned home with stomach ailments, never having adjusted to the food. Japan may utilize a coach from within the country, with their success in recent years making them an exporter of coaches to other nations within the confederation (including Jordan)

Korea Republic defeated Vietnam 4-0 with two goals from Lim Seon-joo and singles from Lee Geum-min and Jeon Ga-eul as Yoon Duk-yeo's side earned their first victory at the tournament. Vietnam head coach Mai Duc Chung was not despondent about his team's last place finish in the Asian Olympic Qualifying finals, despite scoring only one goal and surrendering 22; 9 of which came against Australia: “We were the only team to qualify for this final qualification round. We came to compete with the highest level of Asian teams and I am satisfied with how my players did. We learned a lot. First of all, we have improved our skill and technical play--particularly by playing the likes of Australia and China. They showed us many good things so our players will improve in the future….We are making programs for women and children looking towards the long term, and in the near future we want to reach the top level in Asia."


In the CONCACAF Women's U-17 World Cup Qualifying Tournament Final Four Games to determine the three sides to advance to the U-17 Women's World Cup later this year in Jordan, in the semifinals on Friday March 11, the U.S. and Mexico booked their tickets with comprehensive wins. The Americans defeated Canada 5-0, with two goals coming at the end of the match in injury time against the dispirited Maple Leafs. Mexico started fast against Haiti and had a 2-0 lead after 13 minutes and controlled the game with strong possession and wing play and finished with a 3-0 win.

On the final day on March 13, Canada defeated Haiti 4-2 to secure the third U-17 Women's World Cup spot. Canada held possession at least 70% of the ball control statistics but didn't score until the 55th minute. Haiti grabbed two late goals to narrow the margin.

Canada's coach is English native Bev Priestman, who was coached by Canadian National Team coach John Herdman as a youth player. After finishing university in England, she followed Herdman to New Zealand where she was the head of football development at age 25 while he was the women's national team coach. She then went with Herdman to Canada where she has been coach of the U-17's through two World Cup cycles and directs the CSA's Excel Program for U-14 & U-17 women to accelerate the develop of top class women players. Canada has now qualified for each of the five editions of the U-17 World Cup.

In the championship final, the U.S. defeated Mexico 2-1 on a late Savannah Kuhlman (Colorado Rush club) goal in the 85th minute and her fourth goal of the competition. The U.S. has won the CONCACAF U-17 tournament three of the five editions, while Canada and Mexico have each won once.

In the third round match day in Group A on Monday March 7, Haiti came from a goal down to stun Canada 2-1 to clinch the group and the higher seed for Friday's semifinal, as both teams had previously qualified for the next round with wins in their first two matches against Guatemala and host Grenada. All the scoring came in the second half. Sarah Stratigakis scored in the 77th minute for Canada on her 17th birthday, after hitting the woodwork at the end of the first half. Haiti charged back after the Maple Leaf's goal. Mikerline Saint Felix (81') equalized and then Shelsie Melissa Dacius converted a penalty kick in the 84th minute to give the Caribbean side a historic win. Dacius, who had a brace in the 13-0 win over Grenada, scored from the penalty spot into the lower left corner past Canadian goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx for the game-winner after Kennedy Faulknor fouled Nerilia Mondesir in the penalty area. Guatemala beat Grenada in the other match 3-0 to finish third.

In Group B, Mexico defeated Jamaica 2-0 to clinch second place in the group and a semifinal spot versus Haiti. Jacqueline Ovalle scored the game's only goal in the 41st minute with a low, left-footed shot past goalkeeper Sydney Schneider into the right corner from 19-yards out. The Americans won the group with a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica. Las Ticas which finished third in the group with 3 points after the defeat, entered the match tied with Mexico, though behind on goal difference, so they needed to win and for Mexico to lose or tie. Winless Jamaica finished fourth in their group.

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

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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