There’s been a fair few changes in the top of women’s football in England. Since the WSL started, it’s gone from one league to two and also more recently changed from a summer to a winter season. The later was to move it in line with other European leagues and the league system in England itself. There is to be more change which will occur next season.
The FA announced in September 2017 that there was to be a restructuring of the women’s football pyramid at the elite level and new licensing criteria. These changes will see WSL1 expanded to 14 teams, become the top tier and the league would have full time professional players across the board. WSL2 would be Tier 2, have 12 teams and it would be semi professional and part time. WPL (Women’s Premier League) would maintain it’s regional structure. Several WSL teams applied and were successful in their bid but there were spaces left. Some teams chose not to apply at the time and could apply in this open process now with WPL sides also showing interest.
This will end on Friday, March 9th. We now know the names of these tiers. WSL1 will revert back to its previous name of WSL, WSL2 will become the FA Women’s Championship and WPL will become the FA Women’s National League. The branding and further details about this will be revealed at the end of the season.
It seems like it wasn’t long since international teams were kicking off their year at La Manga and now we have moved on tournaments where teams can claim silverware for the first time this year and test themselves against others they may or may not play against in this World Cup qualifying year.
The Algarve Cup and the Cyprus Cup both ran at the same time. The Algarve Cup saw 7 European teams participate including Euro 2017 champions Netherlands. After the group stages were over the final placing matches were put together and the final was Netherlands vs Sweden. When these two met in the Euros, Netherlands won 2-0 in the quarter finals. However, the inclement weather conditions lead to the final being called off and both teams sharing the trophy.
The Cyprus Cup had 10 out of 12 teams participating from Europe such as Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Wales. All the top teams in each group had the same points after winning 2 of their matches and drawing as well so it came down to goal difference. That meant that Italy faced Spain in the final and 3 other placing matches ending up as all European ties. Belgium and Switzerland faced other opposition in South Africa and North Korea respectively. Spain went on to win the Cyprus Cup beating Italy 2-0. They had won the Algarve Cup the year before. As for the rest of the European sides, Switzerland finished 4th after losing 2-1 to North Korea. Belgium finished 5th after a win against South Africa. Austria finished 7th, Wales 8th, Czech Republic 9th, Slovakia 10th, Finland 11th and Hungary last.
Finally, the top 3 European teams, according to FIFA rankings, headed over to the States for the third edition of the SheBelieves Cup. The US and France took the previous titles and the US managed to win the cup again but not by much. The cup kicked off in style when England took everyone by suprise and thrashed a sorry France side. The first goal was scored in the 6th minute by Toni Duggan and soon enough it was 3-0 at half time. It took less than a minute for Fran Kirby to rub more salt into French wounds and put England 4-0 up. France later got a goal but it took a deflection from Millie Bright to go in.
Meanwhile, Germany was defeated 1-0 by the US. Germany have not had the best year so they looked to try and get something in the next game which they did. They drew 2-2 with England in a bizarre game. Both Germany goals were gifted to them with the Lionesses not clearing quick enough and an own goal. England showed character to get back into it twice which previously they may not have done. France improved from their previous match and drew 1-1 with the US. That left England with the upper hand as their goal difference was larger than that of the US. It looked to be a great showdown between the two with both sides having some good chances. It was an own goal by Karen Bardsley however that meant that the US would win with the Lionesses finishing second. There was a lack of communication between her and Millie Bright which lead to it.
France beat Germany 3-0 earlier in the day to finish third.
In the WSL, recent fixtures saw the current two go head to head in a crucial match that could decide the title further down the line. Before this fixture however, Manchester City suffered their first defeat of the season to Birmingham City who they knocked out of the FA Cup a few days before. This left the door open for Chelsea to take advantage and go into top spot which they did. They faced a tough Yeovil Town side but took the win 2-0 and went to the top by 1 point. The resulting match between the top two ended in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea failing to maintain their 2-0 lead in this game and the equalising goal from Georgia Stanway was unstoppable. Elsewhere, Arsenal kept themselves within reach after a 1-0 win at Everton. They are 6 point behind Manchester City but with a game in hand so it could be a close run in for the title.
In Belgium’s Super League, it was top vs bottom and the gap showed as Anderlecht thrashed Heist 11-0. Heist are set to go into the relegation round but OH Leuven could get themselves out of the relegation zone if they beat Standard Liege just above them and with other results too.
In Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga, Wolfsburg maintain their lead after beating SC Sand. Meanwhile second and third placed teams Freiburg and Bayern Munich slipped up a bit with Freiburg losing to bottom placed Duisburg and then beating Bayern 6 days later.
Finally in Spain, Atletico Madrid have taken top spot in the Primera Division. Barcelona lost to Athletic Club who are third in the league. Atletico Madrid beat Sporting de Huelva 4-2 and Barcelona kept the gap to only a point with a 4-1 win against Valencia.