Euro Roundup: Casey Stoney Retires, International Previews, and More

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Welcome to the third edition of the Euro Roundup. There’s a few different points in this week’s edition, with international tournaments coming up, and, of course, the top leagues being back in action after the international and winter break.

Press Play

Have you wanted to look behind the scenes and see what life is like for some of the pros in women’s football? Now you can, thanks to UEFA. In 2017, UEFA launched the #WePlayStrong campaign at the Champions League final in order to change perceptions of the game, and to encourage girls who may be interested in playing football. Anyone can get involved in spreading the word and taking part, from pros to fans.

They have continued this with a YouTube series called Press Play. This is where you see the lives of four European players—Eunice Beckmann (FC Basel), Lisa Evans (Arsenal and Scotland), Sarah Zadrazil (Turbine Potsdam and Austria) and Laura Feiersinger (SC Sand and Austria)—as they vlog it. There are already five episodes and it is uploaded every Thursday, so go and give it a watch.

SheBelieves, Algarve and Cyprus

It doesn’t seem that long since there was international action happening, but we are soon approaching another break—only this time, some silverware is up for grabs. First up is both the Cyprus Cup and the Algarve Cup. These tournaments both start at the same time—February 28—with a fair amount of European interest.

In the Cyprus Cup, the European teams involved are: Finland, Wales, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Hungary. Belgium, Austria, Finland, Switzerland and Wales have announced their squads, with other teams still yet to announce. There are some notable call-ups here. For Austria, Simona Koren, who plays for Sunderland, got called up and could make her international debut. Three uncapped players have been called up by Wales: Ellie Lake (Swansea City), Gwen Davies (Cyncoed) and Elise Hughes (Everton) have all been named in the squad.

In the Algarve Cup, seven out of the 12 teams are European. The Netherlands, the European champions, are involved, as well as runners-up Denmark, plus Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Russia and Portugal. The Netherlands and Russia are yet to announce their squads for the tournament.

Of course, concurrent with these two tournaments, we also have the SheBelieves Cup, a round-robin tournament between the USA, France, Germany, and England. 2017 has been an interesting year for all three of the European teams. They all made it out of the group stage in the Euro, with the Lionesses faring the best as they won all three games. France made it difficult for themselves, just getting through after drawing with Austria and Switzerland. Germany, who had won the last six European Championships, were knocked out by Denmark, and England eliminated France in the quarterfinals. England were of course knocked out by the eventual champions, the Netherlands.

The USA is the only side that has yet to announce their final roster.

League and cup action

There’s been a fair amount of action in European football this month, with a fair few top leagues in action. In France, Lyon are still yet to drop as they have 15 wins—the most recent win being against Bordeaux, with a comfortable 4-0 scoreline. They’ve been on fine goalscoring form in the Coupe de France, too, with 41 goals in three—yes, three—matches. Their opponents have been teams lower in the standings, and Lyon have shown the power and talent they have in their squad. Their next opponent, Marseille, is slighter higher in the league than previous opponents, but it looks like Lyon will get through yet again.

In Germany, the league came back after a winter break on February 4. It’s fairly close in the league, with three points between first-place Wolfsburg and second-place Bayern Munich, and just four points separating the third- through fifth-place teams (Freiburg, Turbine Potsdam, and Frankfurt, respectively). Both Bayern and Wolfsburg had close matches recently. Munich beat SGS Essen 2-1. Essen took the lead 23 minutes in, and the winner came in the 89th minute.  Wolfsburg beat Hoffenheim 1-0 with the only goal of the game at the 15th minute scored by Pernille Harder.

It’s been a mixture of cup and league games in the WSL. This month saw all WSL teams enter the FA Cup—the knockout tournament where all English teams, down to the county leagues, can enter to try and get to the final at Wembley. Cardiff City, from the WPL South, produced a shock in the 4th Round when they beat WSL2 side Oxford United on penalties. Cardiff are in the league below Oxford. The next round saw Cardiff knocked out by fellow WPL South side Charlton Athletic to see Charlton become the remaining WPL side left in. All other ties went pretty much as expected but Millwall came so close to producing a shock in terms of league position. Millwall are flying in WSL2 and managed to only lose 1-0 to Arsenal, in a game that saw Kim Little’s long-awaited return from injury.

In the league, however, Chelsea and Manchester City are pulling away from the rest in their quest for the title. They faced each other on February 1, a meeting that ended in a draw, but the next match, on February 24, is likely to be different. Chelsea can’t afford to draw, as they are two points behind City and only one goal behind in goal difference. A win for them would see them just edge out in front. City, meanwhile, could afford to draw, but a win would increase their lead.

Casey Stoney retires

February 18, 2017 was Kelly Smith’s farewell game. A year on from that, another England legend announced her retirement. Casey Stoney has announced her retirement from both league and international football and she will be part of the backroom team with the Lionesses.

Stoney started her career at Chelsea at age 12, and later moved on to Arsenal. She played with Arsenal from 1999-2002, before going to Charlton Athletic—a team that was disbanded in 2007 due to the relegation of the men’s team, which Stoney spoke out about (Charlton have since started up again, and are currently second in the WPL South). She then made her return to Chelsea, before moving on to Lincoln; she didn’t follow the team when they moved to Nottingham and became Notts County, instead going back to Arsenal in 2014. Finally, she landed in Liverpool, where she’s been since 2016.

Over her career, she won the WPL National Division twice, FA Cup four times and the WPL Cup four times.

As for her international career, she made her debut in 2000 against France, although she missed out on major tournament appearances until the World Cup in 2007, where she played every minute of every match. She was one of the 17 female players who were part of history in 2009 when the FA introduced central contracts. She became England captain in 2012 when Faye White retired from international football. In that year she also captained Team GB at the Olympics in London, where the team advanced to the quarterfinals.

In 2015, Stoney again made history when the Lionesses had their best-ever finish in the World Cup. They battled on after a loss to France in the opening match to go on and finally beat Germany. They finished third and claimed the bronze medal after a heartbreaking loss to Japan in the semifinals.

Stoney will play her final game February 21, when Liverpool take on Sunderland at home in the league. She has inspired so many players on the pitch, including many of pros that now ply their trade in the WSL. She has been a leader and a true Lionesses legend, and she will continue to inspire off of it and maybe inspire the Lionesses to future international glory. All that is left to say is, thank you, Casey.