It’s not often a 6-2 loss is taken to presage a “nation’s arrival on the big stage”, but that’s the reaction today in the Guardian from Anna Kessel on the England’s women’s team’s defeat in the UEFA European Championship final to Germany last night. The Germans, winning their seventh European title, were faster and stronger than the English underdogs, who were in their first final for a quarter-century.
But their run to the final and the pluck of their first half performance certainly demonstrated the improved quality of the team. At 3-2 early in the second half — England clawing their way back into it thanks to an exquisite feed from Karen Carney to Kelly Smith — the Germans were rattled, before their superior force saw them overrun England towards the end.
The women’s game in England has been growing fast at the grassroots, with participation booming over the past two decades, leading to this improved performance along with England’s under-19 team winning the European Championship in July. But development at the professional level has not kept pace so far, with the introduction of central contracts too late and too little to keep many English stars from moving to WPS in the U.S. along with the disrespectfully made announcement earlier this year that the proposed new F.A. summer women’s Super League would be delayed from its intended 2010 launch.
Amidst the excitement over England’s run this week, F.A. chief executive Ian Watmore got all the soundbites right as he promised the Super League really, really would launch in 20111. But once the media glare once again drifts away from the women’s game, will the F.A. finally fulfill their duties? Let’s hope the momentum from the past week does force them to do so.
- Meanwhile, today is National Fabio Capello Day in England. The Telegraph’s Henry Winter remembers Capello’s own “thirty years of hurt” with the World Cup; the Times looks at the fortune England’s success so far has already earned the Italian; and the Daily Mail considers how Capello solved the conundrum of playing Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney together (“I spoke with them and I said you are a fantastic player, you are a fantastic player and you are another fantastic player.”)
- The Football Association is cashing in on success, with a new major sponsor — Mars — set to be unveiled soon. But ESPN are playing hardball over available FA Cup rights vacated by Setanta.
- Arsene Wenger makes an important if extremely self-serving point about the proposed ban on the transfer of players under the age of 18, arguing that reducing the ability for (oh, say) Arsenal to capture all the best talent would stifle their talent and perhaps more worryingly, lead to their sale to businessmen and agents.
- Jeff Cooper of St. Louis Soccer United speaks about his plans for men’s professional football in the city, a goal he seems to keep coming agonisingly close to achieving. Cooper was one of the leaders of the proposed purchase of USL from Nike recently, and speaks about the prospective breakaway league, whilst also keeping his options open for his obvious first preference to buy into MLS by attempting to woo David Beckham.
- Your Friday FIFA round-up of the upcoming weekend action not in Europe is available.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.