martes, 9 de junio de 2015

Central European axis hope to convert club clout to Women’s World Cup success

Central European axis hope to convert club clout to Women’s World Cup success

This guest post by broadcaster and journalist Andy Brassell is part 5 of our joint blog series on the Women’s World Cup with Women, Work and Value
Part 1: Matthew Brown and Josie McLellan, How to Watch the World Cup?
Join us for a Twitter chat on these issues on Thursday June 11, 2015, 8pm-9pm BST. #WatchWWC           

Central European axis hope to convert club clout to Women’s World Cup success

More than one of the expanded field of 24 at the Women’s World Cup will travel to Canada with the intention of righting a few wrongs. After Japan spoiled Germany’s party to spectacular effect four years ago, Die Nationalelf will attempt to hit back on the artificial surfaces in North America this summer.

Germany - winners in 2003 and 2007 before being surprisingly unseated on home turf by the Japanese - again seem like Europe’s best chance of success, followed by France, arguably the European nation that has made the greatest strides in the women’s game over the past five to ten years. Over the next month or so, we’ll see how far the rising central European axis of power in club football is beginning to translate to the international stage.

In this particular arena, there is still little comparison between the neighbours. This will be Germany’s seventh appearance in the finals, but only France’s second. Les Bleues, however, managed fourth place backin 2011 on their tournament bow. Expectation has grown so quickly that the quarter-final defeat in Euro 2013 to Denmark on penalties was seen as a huge disappointment (the tournament was won by Germany for an eighth time). This time, they are to be taken seriously under coach Philippe BergarooHis pedigree from the men’s game, winning Euro 84 as a player and coaching the Under-17s to the 2004 Euro title, “counts for a lot for us,” midfielder Camille Abily told L’Equipe this week.

Germany and France are already serious rivals at club level. FFC Frankfurt’s dramatic late UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCLfinal win over Paris Saint-Germain last month was a clash between authentic heavyweights, on a landscape that is evolving apace. Again, there is catching up to do. It was Frankfurt’s fourth title going back to the tournament’s original inception as the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2001 - it was rebranded as the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL) in 2009The whole history of the competition is German-dominated, with two wins apiece for Turbine Postdam and Wolfsburg, and one for Freiburg.

Yet the only nation to realistically compete in recent times is France, with Olympique Lyonnais winning in 2011 and 2012 as part of a sequence of four successive final appearances. Lyon remain the undisputed leaders of the French game, with this season's league and cup double meaning that the Rhone-Alpes club have been champions nine times in a row. Yet heavy investment from PSG’s Qatari owners means that the capital club are closing the gap, and they defeated Lyon in the last 16 of this year’s UWCL.

Annike Krahn and Josephine Henning, both in Silvia Neid’s Germany squad for the finals, are among Paris’ marquee names. Lyon, meanwhile, made 20-year-old defender Griedge Mbock – voted player of the tournament in the 2012 Women’s Under-17 World Cup, which her France team won - the most expensive transfer in French league history recently when they signed her from Guingamp for a fee of over€100,000. The big pair mean business.

This is especially pertinent in this World Cup, not just in terms of the growing prestige of the women’s game, but because the big two dominate Bergaroo’groupHis 23-strong group includes ten from Lyonand a further six from PSG. If progress in the French women’s game has its roots in shared use of the lauded academy facilities at Clairefontaine, the ready-made complicity fostered by the use of large numbers of players from the same club (or two) is what has allowed rapid advancement for the national team.

For Germany, the strength in depth of the domestic game – so apparent in the scale and support for the 2011 tournament  is only increasing, and is evident in a diverse squad. Another giant from the men’s game, Bayern Munich, is set to make an impact in Europe after a historic league and cup double win this season. Already, Frankfurt’s star Spanish playmaker Verónica Boquete has left for Bayern.

Elsewhere Jackie Groenen’s move from Chelsea to Frankfurt as anominal replacement for Boquete – ahead of a period in which the London club are expected to strengthen significantly – is a reminder of just how far the English game has to catch up to its central European neighbours, status-wise and financially.

Sweden, thought of as a traditional pillar of the women’s game (and achievers of third place in 2011), lack the sort of domestic strength to grow. After Umea’s titles in 2003 and 2004 (and subsequent final lossesin 2007 and 2008), it wasn’t until last year that there was again Swedish representation in the UWCL final, with Tyresö beaten by Wolfsburg in Lisbon. This was an exception, with the club recruiting stars such as Marta and Caroline Seger and racking up huge debts in the process, which led to their demise shortly after the final. The national team’sstandout player, the prolific Lotta Schelin, has played her club football with Lyon since 2008.

Schelin represents one of the biggest threats to Europe’s big two making their presence felt. It may well take some individual brilliance from elsewhere to blow Germany and France off course.

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