The last international break in women’s football for the year 2023 has come to an end. We return to club football in the coming days, but before then, let’s look back at the biggest moments from this international break.
England’s triumph and heartbreak all wrapped up into one
The biggest story even before the start of the most recent international break was England. All eyes were on them in the UEFA Women’s Nations League.
This year, the Nations League doubled as a qualifying competition. England were nominated as the nation to qualify on behalf of Britain. In order to do so, England needed to top Group A1 to stand a chance. As if the pressure wasn’t enough, England also needed to top the group to qualify for the Nations League finals.
The Lionesses appeared to be winning Group A1 with a dominant 6-0 win over Scotland on Tuesday evening. However, it was the goal difference that would come to crush hearts. As England were playing Scotland, concurrently, the Netherlands were playing Belgium. They had a 3-0 lead during stoppage time. At that point, England had seemingly topped the group. There were only a few seconds left to seal their fate. However, the Netherlands were not done yet, England fell short after the the Orange Army defeated Belgium 4-0 during the final moments of stoppage time.
This meant that England had not done enough to reach the final four. To add a dagger to the wound, it also meant that Team GB would not be playing at the Olympics in Paris next summer.
This marks the first time that Team GB will not have a women’s football team at an Olympics they have entered. It is history in the making, but not the good kind.
Those still on the road to glory in Europe
Having topped their League A groups, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain are in the final four of the Nations League finals set to be held in February.
France reached the Nations League finals after they beat Austria and with the help of a last-minute win over Portugal to close their campaign.
Despite having a disappointing World Cup campaign, all Germany had to do was to match Denmark’s result on Tuesday when they travelled to Wales in order to advance to the finals. The Germans were unable to score against the Welsh with the game ending 0-0. However, Germany remained in Olympic contention after the Danes’ game ended as a shocking 1-0 home defeat by Iceland.
Despite losing to Italy, World Champions Spain qualified for the finals. Sweden were the only team in their group that could finish higher than Spain, but they unfortunately lost to Switzerland on the same evening Spain lost to Italy. The Spain v Sweden game was a thrilling one that ended 5-3. Both teams needed to win that game in order to advance to the finals.
USWNT already affected by Emma Hayes
Emma Hayes hasn’t officially begun coaching the USWNT as she is set to join after concluding the 2023/24 season with Chelsea FC. She was not on the sidelines of the pitch during the recent international break, however, her influence is already starting to show itself within the team though tons of work needs to be done.
For the team’s December fixtures, Hayes and interim manager Twila Kilgore picked the squad collaboratively as confirmed by Kilgore. Hayes’ physically closest interaction with the team so far was when she flew from London to Florida. The Chelsea coach had gone to meet USWNT players and staff ahead of their 3-0 win on Saturday.
The USWNT’s tactical approach in both friendlies against China led many to perceive that Hayes has already begun calling some of the shots from afar. In contrast to their disappointing run in the 2023 World Cup, the USWNT displayed fluidity and had a visible attacking structure. However, despite a 3-0 and 2-1 win over China, the stars and stripes struggles in both matches, especially after going down 1-0 during the second match for a good 62 minutes.
Christine Sinclair’s Canada dominate Australia
Canada and Australia met twice during the recent international break for friendlies. Following a successful display at the 2023 World Cup, Australia were expected to have the upper hand over Canada who have been struggling since their Olympic success.
Things couldn’t be any more different though.
The first blow for Australia was a Sam Kerr injury, ruling her out of both games. The second came in a 5-0 loss in the first game between the pair. Tony Gustavsson had made the odd selection of the starting lineup not consisting of any first-team players against Canada’s first team. One could argue that those inexperienced players would have learned in a better way while playing alongside experienced players.
The first change happened in the 46th minute when Australia were already down 2-0. Three more goals later, five substitutions with experience were brought onto the pitch to help the Matildas.
Mary Fowler produced Australia’s first shot of the game – the first of two in total by the final whistle – in the 74th minute. In contrast, Canada had 19 shots in total, with 8 on target. One could say they were probably unlucky not to have a few more goals.
The second fixture between the pair ended 1-0 in favour of the Canadians. This time around, regular starters were selected in the Matilda’s starting XI. It was another disappointing display from Australia, but fortunately, the Matildas kept Canada from scoring more than 1 goal.
What was the end of a disappointing international break was a celebratory one for Canada.
Christine Sinclair bid farewell to international football on Tuesday with one final match that brought an end to an illustrious career.
Sinclair is the world’s all-time leading scorer in international football. Her international career includes a record of 190 goals in 331 games, an Olympic gold medal in 2021 and six World Cup call-ups.
For her contributions to the women’s game, a win was the perfect send-off for the football legend.