Women's round-up: May 2014

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May proved to be a particularly jam-packed month for women’s football, with continental queens crowned in Asia and Europe, domestic titles decided and a new coach installed by USA. For all this and more, join FIFA.com in our customary look back at the main events in the female game.

National teams
Japan‘s long wait ends
They might be world champions and Olympic silver medallists but, until last week, Japan had never won their own continental championship. That strange historical quirk was finally put right when, at the 14th attempt, the Nadeshiko finally got their hands on the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and led a group of five teams booking their place at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™. A hard-fought 1-0 win over reigning champions Australia secured the trophy, with defender Azusa Iwashimizu – just as she had in the semi-final – emerging as the unlikely goalscoring hero. There were plenty of reasons to be cheerful elsewhere, too: the Matildas impressed with a youthful line-up, China PR raised morale by finished third, while Thailand qualified for the Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history, rounding off Asia’s quintet with Korea Republic.

USA appoint Ellis
The search for a new USA coach came to an end on 16 May with the appointment of Jill Ellis, who had been in the post on an interim basis. The 47-year-old, who succeeds Tom Sermanni, is an experienced operator within the ranks of US Soccer, having coached at every age level and served as assistant in the squads that won gold at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Federation president Sunil Gulati cited Ellis’s “tremendous knowledge of our player pool and the qualities of multiple generations of players” as a key factor in the decision, and key US stars have been quick to voice their approval. The new coach’s first major test will come with a double-header against France on 14 and 19 June, followed by the CONCACAF qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which USA will host.

Race to Canada hots up
Costa Rica and Guatemala qualified for October’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship earlier this week and, in doing so, kept alive their hopes of reaching the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The duo emerged triumphant from the UNCAF pre-qualifying event, with Las Ticas beating their Guatemalan hosts 3-0 in a final play-off to ensure they also claimed the event’s only berth at the 2015 Pan American Games. Preliminary matches also continue apace in Europe, where Germany, England, Spain, France and Switzerland are all closing in on automatic qualification. Norway, meanwhile, face a battle with the Netherlands, who saw off Belgium, while arguably the most intriguing contest involves the unbeaten duo of Scotland and Sweden in Group 4.

A Winnipeg wonder
The official slogan for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 – ‘TO A GREATER GOAL’ – was revealed in Winnipeg on 8 May, and the backdrop could hardly have been more fitting. After all, the unveiling was done during a match between Canada and USA that attracted a hugely impressive crowd of 28,255. Only once before in Canada has a bigger attendance been recorded for a women’s friendly, and the fans who turned out were treated to an enthralling encounter. Canada had seemed set for victory thanks to a first-half header from 18-year-old Kadeisha Buchanan, but USA’s Vancouver-born star Sydney Leroux equalised with 12 minutes remaining to ensure a 1-1 draw. The result preserved the Stars and Stripes’ 30-match unbeaten run against their northern rivals, a streak that dates back to 2001.

Club Football
Lisbon joy for Wolfsburg
It was described as the greatest final in the history of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and it ended with Wolfsburg having retained their crown. Ralf Kellerman’s side became the first German team to win the trophy in successive seasons, but they did it the hard way, coming from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Tyreso 4-3. And while Marta, who scored twice, looked back to her best for the Swedes, it was Wolfsburg’s Martina Muller who stole the show with a double of her own – including an 80th-minute winner.

A familiar story in France
Lyon, who lost to Wolfsburg in last year’s Champions League final, made it eight titles in a row in France after securing their latest championship with a game to spare. Despite a determined challenge from Paris Saint-Germain, who seem sure to offer a genuine threat to the serial champions in years to come, Patrice Lair’s side were able to cross the finishing line thanks to an emphatic 5-1 win over Guingamp. France‘s big two will, however, do battle again when they meet in next week’s French Cup final to compete for the final silverware of the season.

Torres topped by Brescia
While Lyon maintained their supremacy in France, Italian side Torres missed out on a chance to extend their run of consecutive titles to five. Their fate was sealed when they went head-to-head with title challengers Brescia on the final day of the Serie A season, knowing that only a win would be enough retain the trophy. Brescia, though, proved worthy winners, triumphing 2-1 thanks to goals from Martina Rosucci and Elena Linari, the latter an injury-time penalty. Patrizia Panico scored Torres’ consolation and ended the season on 42 for the season – enough to secure the 39-year-old 13th Capocannoniere crown as the league’s top scorer.

The stat
40 – The new all-time Australia scoring record, which belongs to Kate Gill after the 29-year-old surpassed Matildas legend Cheryl Salisbury’s 38-goal mark with a double in her team’s 3-1 Asian Cup victory over Jordan.

The quote
“The job description is to win next summer.”
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati’s FIFA Women’s World Cup challenge to new coach Jill Ellis