FIFA ranking top ranks have changed.
USA are no longer the number one ranked team in women’s football. The mediocre results during the Olympics and the recent SheBelieves Cup. Germany did arguably play worse. But more successful. A ranking system can only be judging by results and not evidence of skills. And thus a gold medal and whatsoever second place in the shebel Cup looks good for a ranking system. So they are back at number 1 again after a short spell in 2014.
Let us see how long their results will continue to look good for the ranking system. European Championships upcoming. The biggest event in this years women’s football calendar.
All favorites have been in action over the last couple of days.
Netherlands – France 1:2
Two contenders for the title met in a strange match that did and did not look as close as the result at the end. France was back at their usual problems in the attack. What works nice against USA doesnt against the Netherlands. You didnt need to watch this game to know this. Elodie Thomis and Eugenie LeSommer are speed players who usually need free spaces to use their strengths. The strange thing was LeSommer scored a beautiful non-athleticism goal with a very fine lob. But it was also after the Dutch defense was opening free spaces in their own half. France didnt need to combine here at all. And the other French goal was a clumsy own goal. Combination play to create chances? Nope. Close to nothing. Not quite unexpected with mainly the pair of them up front. But Majri and Thiney? Doesnt work this way. Take two runners and two combination players and you end up half the way to nowhere when the opponent defends well enough.
What the Netherlands did not. The back line gave away too many opportunities to create chances. But France wasnt able to take even those big invitations.
On the other side it seems though the Netherlands new coach tried to improve on their usual problems in the center of the park. Good footballers Anouk Dekker and Sherida Spitse (former double 6) both not quite top in athletic capabilities. Jackie Groenen often here gave them an advantage in the duels even against France winning most of them and stealing some balls. Though she needs to add more confidence in her build up play. Looks like she is still in need of a coach who pushes her more into a leader role.
A strange match also for the Dutch offense. Viviane Miedema looked tired and for the first time ever we watched a game of the Dutch N11 seemed quite a weakness for her team. Interesting to see though how the differences looks and how much things she normally does so well. Untypically not only she missed the big chance to score the equaliser in overtime very poorly. Symptomatic for her performance at this day. The movement was poor in the front line getting away from the defenders. And the movement backwards to be available as anchor player to support midfield was also missing. The first ball touch also wasnt as accurate as usual.
That left a usually dangerous Dutch offense a matter of very isolated individuals. Lieke Martens still ok and the biggest threat. Danielle VandeDonk had not one of her most lively days. And Shanice VandeSanden needs good team mates who feed her with passes into space or she looks rather lost.
And France are back to Bouhaddi in goal. Some decision. We will wait and see.
Sweden – Canada 0:1
In the meantime we love watching matches from Sweden. Because of coach Pia Sundhages style. There is so much of not any development of her team. And it is also interesting how the players are accepting that as well. A typical scenario where the big name players are getting older and are afraid of changes might weaken their own standing?
Canada of course have been the big movers in the top rankings since the younger players started to shine after the WC 2015. Will they still go further? Hard to prevent. But the speed they are going through the rankings is slowing down. Though yet another great example where following womens football is so much more interesting than mens: Following the development of the youngsters. Men are having only extremely few exceptions where players are still developing when hitting the big stage in a young age. Mostly because they had to reach a certain level of optimising their abilities before they could reach the top.
Women though are only at the beginning of that. Nearly no players (women < 2%; men > 90%) have already reached their potential by the age of 16 (apart from getting stronger and more experienced) and massive development is still possible. But it is changing rapidly. The U17 WCs show how much the average U17 woman player these days is already massively further developed than a few years ago.
Can talk about that here because the game didnt offer that much. Canadas jet-lagged performance was enough because Sweden couldnt create enough in the final third (as usual?). As mentioned above. Sweden is playing thus consistently always the same old soup it is already getting fun to watch again.
England – Italy 1:1
Another wonderful example for a very consistent but one sided development. Since the WC 2015 we have chosen England as our best example of the leading fashionable destruction team. Adapting your set up the best way to defend your opponents every game. That was good for the underdog role and with the history of lacking success the years before.
But no style of offensive play could be established. From the small Fran Kirby who helped 2015 and was called their Mini-Messi by the coach. To the speedy counter attacker Eniola Aluko. To the clever power player Ellen White. To the clever finisher Jody Taylor. Runner Nikita Parris. Technical player Toni Duggan. Missing Jess Clarke. That wild mix supported by an even wilder switch of midfielders.
As a consequence they were mostly struggling to score even against much weaker opponents. At least they started to play a more consistent attacking formation since the beginning of this year personally.
Nevertheless. Again they only scored after a poor positioning in the defense following a long ball from center back Houghton. Italys goal was the better constructed over the wing. Hopefully we can expect England to score anything from combining in open play even against the weakest defenses of the Euros. Might be the game against Austria shows more potential.
Because they have already made clear this is it. These are the players they want to use at the Euros. Interesting. Another example of the level of logical reasoning used? No FAWSL match has been played since October 2016. So why decide now based on performance levels of nearly 10 months prior to the event? Really 10 months? No. In fact, its worse.
Players like Jodi Taylor havent played since 2015. Alex Greenwood since early 2016. Because of injuries. Leah Williamson – a young player we would have suggested all day long also got injured early last season. Selection based on 2015 levels here?
But the development in Italy is a big disappointment. The only big football nation where nothing happens. Mens pro clubs not interested. The money low. Nevertheless the top players should develop faster. Maybe you can see the difference because they are not challenged by a great number of improved youngsters. Gama once was a hopeful young talent in Paris. After her injury and going back her development stood still at best unfortunately. Barbara Bonansea’s too. Please go on.
Germany – Canada 2:1
Nothing special happened we hadnt already talked about. Interesting though the perception of Germany because they are ranked number 1. Certainly you dont get number 1 without a reason. Not often you get a gold medal because the best opponents all take a day off. But Germany got second in the shebel cup for the second time without a convincing performance. And Germany scored again here a goal for which number 57 would have been good enough too because it was all alone Canadas keeper. Hopefully it will make her stronger on the long run.
But this again showed one big problem of the Canadian team. They have their few exceptional players. But then? Still some research necessary to get infos about top womens footballers but finally found something in Orlando news media about Josee Belanger and Kaylan Kyle. They might be able to help. But if the others are even better – fine.
Talking of improvements in management in womens football we also will have to see where Jessie Fleming goes from here. There have been much easier tasks failed than developing her further. Given her age it is yet not considered a big fail how much she lacks adapting to a game and switch impact and approach. But it will be very interesting to see how the further development goes along. How long will she need to learn how to have an influence on a games rhythm or tempo, how long to avoid being fouled and holding up play in midfield without drawing yellow cards for the opponents.
Germany on the other side had the advantage of bringing in 6? players in the second half and getting better. Another 6 have still been left on the bench or in the stands. 10 about the same level or better are injured (think Goessling, Leupolz for example. And the huge number of injuries is that often and consistently in Germany the probability that it is random is getting very small) And another 10-20 about the same level are not being called up. Somewhere I read the number of 40 used in the N11 in the last 12 months. Doesnt matter exactly.
Having about 50 players on a similar level is also rare and interesting. Is it resulting in a: you cant do much wrong? But it is more difficult then to get the best starting line up fine grained? Germany has already got number 1 and the Gold medal by playing consistently not top but never too far away from it.
Let us see if that will be the same – or changing at the Euros.
Netherlands – Iceland 3:0
Another rare view of Iceland. Who played so, so well in the qualifiers in Scotland. Quite the contrary here and another disappointment from one of the outsiders. Why? Not enough inside to all the players because a lot of players are playing at home in Iceland. In Scotland they played very compact and with great awareness and engagement always able to put pressure on the Scottish players they couldnt deal with. They won 4:0. But in the meantime they not only lost at home to Scotland but their play was also worrying here. Just the opposite. Lack of compactness. Often too slow mentally and physically to adapt to the proceedings. Lucky with the result though they would have deserved to score.
The Netherlands attack showed some reaction. And you saw how important Miedema is. She wasnt at her best yet but much improved and that made the whole picture look much better. And Groenen indeed took more initiative as we hoped for. One assist and some good ball distributions especially in the second half. Growing into the main role hopefully.
England – Austria 3:0
3:0 sounds like England have finally found some attacking play. But it was strange again. Could have been a higher result if keeper Zinsberger wouldnt have prevented it for Austria. But again that was more due to strange defending than a well functioning attacking play. Not sure though from the comments whether all the English got that right.
Because on the other side there was another disappointing performance of one of the teams considered to be amongst the weaker at the Euros. Austria are also an interesting team to watch. Nearly all players are playing in Bundesliga teams in starting line-ups. Though only Schnaderbeck in a top team (Bayern) this should make them a rather good group of individuals compared to other N11s. But they are also on the trip of adapting to some fashionable system of men football tactics. Which they do not that bad overall. But a few things not executed well enough and it results in a zero sum game distracting them from putting the focus on more essential problems. They need more quality going forward. Nina Burger has a nice name to play in England and did not play like a burger. She could be used because she is a top level player. But far too often she is cut off up front. She needs to be able to go deeper in these situations to better connect to the game. Maybe Schnaderbeck could add more quality to the midfield in possession of the ball. And we still are hoping they go for Barbara Dunst. Not perfectly sure because we have seen her only short where she could show the required talent. But there seems to be nobody else at the moment who can add this badly needed additional piece of quality. If they cant find that the EC for them might be only a case of limiting the damage.
USA – Russia
We dont know how seriously women’s football is taken in Russia. Probably it depends. And so do the performances of the N11. Sometimes you see them not that bad at all. The next moment rather poor. They qualified for the EC only probably because they were in an easy group and the modus did them a big favour cancelling out their bad results.
Though that was no match where you can read anything regarding the US team. Interestingly now they reverted to a back line of 4. Done with it already? Would sound familiar. However. Any results you think you are getting from matches against Russia are useless in playing top opponents. Not only regarding the defense. Its just to have some nice time together and a few training sessions to give the more unexperienced players a more familiar feeling.