Catch up on all of the action from the past two months.
The world of international soccer is heating up, with a boatload of tournaments being held over the past several weeks. This flurry of competitions was exciting for a lot of reasons: invitationals such as the Tournoi de France provided higher stakes than your usual friendly, and events like the Asian Cup served as qualifiers for even bigger tournaments. But most importantly, these competitions can increase accessibility to the women’s game amongst casual fans, who usually only tune in for World Cups. A lot of the action has only concluded recently, so without further ado, here’s a roundup of every major result:
Algarve Cup: February 16th–23rd
Despite not having as much publicity as the World Cup or the Euros, the Algarve Cup is one of the oldest and most important tournaments in women’s football. Sweden clinched the title on penalties against Italy in its most recent edition, continuing the team’s months-long hot streak. There was a bit of a damper on the tournament due to multiple COVID withdrawals, but considering that the Cup was canceled last year because of the pandemic, we should be grateful that we got to experience it at all.
AFC Asian Cup: January 20th–February 6th
Arguably, the biggest story of the Asian Cup surrounds whatever the heck happened to Australia. The Matildas walked into their quarter-final against South Korea as favorites to win the whole tournament…and walked out with their tails between their legs thanks to a Ji So-yun worldie in the 87th minute.
“I take full ownership of the result tonight. I’m happy [for people] to criticize me, which I think is fair,” said manager Tony Gustavsson after the loss. “But I also hope they do that by looking at the performances as well, so it’s a fair criticism.” Clearly, the rot within the Australian team extends beyond the manager––which is something they’ll need to address before next year’s World Cup on their home turf.
But the second biggest development, as expected, focuses on the winners. China claimed victory in the tournament for the first time since 2006, via a thrilling comeback against South Korea. And don’t think that this success went unnoticed in their homeland. They were met with a ton of fan support and monetary prizes––as well as some pretty harsh but funny memes about how they compared to the men’s side. The Steel Roses will hope to carry this momentum to the 2022 Asian Games, which begin in mid-September.
SheBelieves Cup: February 17th–23rd
The USWNT practically sauntered their way to victory in the SheBelieves Cup, going undefeated and clobbering Iceland 5–0 in the final group stage match. In fact, their off-field experiences drew more headlines than their work on the pitch, in the wake of their historic settlement with U.S. Soccer for equal pay and (sigh) Hope Solo talking trash.
But still, there are a few takeaways that USWNT fans would do well to keep in mind. For one, the future of the squad is looking pretty bright; aside from Kelly O’Hara, most of the old guard took a break this time around, allowing youngsters like Catarina Macario to shine. Additionally, their match against the Czech Republic showed that they have trouble dealing with teams who park the bus. Hopefully they’ll be able to fix this deficiency during their upcoming friendlies.
Arnold Clark Cup: February 17th–23rd
What’s the best way to prepare for a major international competition? Create your own tournament, apparently. England have the home advantage in the Euros this July, which made the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup a perfect opportunity for a tune-up.
And what a tune-up it was. Their play against Germany and Canada was solid, if a bit sloppy. Furthermore, stars like Lauren Hemp and Millie Bright are starting to hit peak form at the right time. If the Lionesses continue to improve under Sarina Wiegman, then they might just clinch their first European title.
Tournoi de France: February 16th–22nd
France fared even better than England in their own invitational. Les Bleues never looked fazed on their way to clinching the title, in part because of Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s heroics. On the opposite end of the scale, Finland––arguably the weakest team in the competition––acquitted themselves well. They somehow managed to snatch a draw with Brazil despite getting outshot 26–5, which is a victory in itself.
Of course, the international action is far from over; World Cup qualifying rounds are still ongoing, and we’ll be treated to several friendlies before the Euros roll around this summer. So for now, let’s hope that these competitions are just a teaser of the excellent football still to come.