Also in today’s roundup, Aubrey Bledsoe loaned Down Under, semifinalists for 2017 Hermann Trophy announced, and Birmingham City Ladies’ Ann-Katrin Berger diagnosed with cancer.
European champion Netherlands was held to a scoreless draw at home by Ireland on Tuesday which leaves the sides level atop Group 3 and opens the door for Ireland to win the group if they can take the return match next year. The hosts took 32 of the 35 shots in the match and all six corner kicks but were unable to produce the breakthrough goal. Both teams are now 2-0-1 (7 pts) with Norway lurking at 2-1-0 (6 pts).
Elsewhere in Group 3 action on Tuesday, Northern Ireland came from behind to earn their first points of qualifying, 3-1 away to Slovakia. Captain Jana Vojtekova put Slovakia on top in the 20th minute but goals by Julie Nelson, Rachel Furness, and Caragh Milligan had Northern Ireland in the driver’s seat for the final half hour. Slovakia remain on 0 points.
Elsewhere in Tuesday World Cup qualifying action in Europe:
Wales won at Bosnia and Herzehovina to stay atop the group but England remain perfect with a match in hand after pummeling Kazakhstan 5-0. Kayleigh Green scored for Wales in the 58th minute to leave them on 10 points through four games at the end of the calendar year. Jess Fishlock went the full 90 in the winning effort.
England was never troubled by Kazakhstan who they did not allow a shot on goal while receiving goals from four different players including two substitutes. Melissa Lawley got the Three Lionesses off and running at 15 minutes before a 12-minute blitz saw goals scored by Fran Kirby (64th), Nikki Paris (69th, 75th), and Isobel Christiansen (76th). England outscored their opponents 9-0 on the week following a 4-0 drubbing of Bosnia and Herzegovina last Friday.
England remain overwhelming favorites to win the group but Wales sit as their top challenger. The British battle will play out next April 6 in England and August 31 in Wales.
Switzerland remain on top after blasting minnows Albania 5-1. The match was not without a touch of drama when Albania found a 29th minute equalizer through Qendresa Krasniqi. Florijana Ismaili had sent Switzerland into the lead at 8 minutes and added the capper in the 87th. Former WPS standout Ramona Bachmann scored the winning goal and Rahel Kiwic and Viola Calligaris also tallied for the Swiss.
Switzerland have won all four matches but Scotland are also perfect with only two played. Qualifying resumes April 5 with the sides meeting in Switzerland. They also meet August 30 in Scotland.
Italy lost the territorial battle in Portugal but emerged 1-0 winners to remain perfect through four matches. Veteran Daniela Sabatino scored in the 37th for the only goal of the match. The Italians, who narrowly missed out to the United States in a playoff to reach the 2011 World Cup, forged ahead of Belgium who did not play Tuesday but are also perfect in group play.
The current group leaders are slated to meet April 10 in Italy and September 4 in Belgium.
In other Group 6 action, Romania topped Moldova 3-1 in a battle between teams that had not earned a point heading in. Andreea Voicu scored in the 27th minute and again in the 52nd one minute after Eugenia Miron leveld it for Moldova. Miron was later the culprit on an own goal for Romanian insurance.
Spain and Finland both posted 4-0 wins to leave 2017 as the only teams in Group 7 not to have dropped a point. Spain dominated previously perfect Australia, going ahead 2-0 after 16 minutes (Alexia Putellas and Patricia Guijarro) and 3-0 before halftime (Irene Paredes). Virginia Torrecilla added the fourth.
Finland had little trouble with Isreal who only managed a single shot to 23 for the Finns. Linda Sallstrom had a brace sandwiched between strikes from Kaisa Collin and Emmi Alanen. The four goals came across a 15 minute span interrupted by halftime.
Qualifying resumes in April with Finland hosting Spain on the 6th. The return match is August 31.
Aubrey Bledsoe goes on loan with Sydney FC
The Orlando Pride announced on Monday evening that goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe had been loaned to Sydney FC of the Australian W-League for the remainder of the NWSL offseason. Like all other W-League loans, Bledsoe will return to her NWSL club ahead of the 2018 season.
“Aubrey had a fantastic season for us this year, and we’re excited for her to continue her development in Australia. This is a great opportunity for her to get some more playing time,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said in the team’s official announcement. “I have no doubt Aubrey will go in and be a wonderful asset for Sydney FC.”
The 25-year old backup keeper saw significant time in net for the Pride during their playoff run, making 11 appearances for the club while starting keeper Ashlyn Harris recovered from a quadriceps injury. She tallied 35 saves, conceded 15 goals, and recorded two clean sheets to finish with a 5-4-2 record during her time in net.
Bledsoe is the second NWSL player to go on loan with Sydney FC, joining Portland Thorns defender Emily Sonnett with the Sky Blues. She is also the fifth member of the Pride to be loaned to the W-League. Australia natives Stephanie Catley and Alanna Kennedy (both Melbourne City), rookie Rachel Hill (Perth Glory) and defender Toni Pressley (Brisbane Roar) have already made their 2017 debuts Down Under. Brazilian international midfielder/defender Monica also went on loan for the offseason but with Spain’s Atlético Madrid.
Sullivan, Fleming headline Hermann Trophy semifinalist list
On Tuesday the Missouri Athletic Club announced its list of 15 semifinalists for the 2017 Hermann Trophy, the award for best NCAA Division 1 player in the United States. Last year’s award went to West Virginia alum and Canada defender Kadeisha Buchanan, teammate of 2017 semifinalist Michaela Abam.
Unsurprisingly, the top-ranked team in the nation, Stanford, boasts three semifinalists including USWNT midfielder Andi Sullivan, who was a finalist for last year’s award. She is joined on the semifinalist list by sophomore defender (and recent USWNT call-up) Tierna Davidson and Brazilian-international Catarina Macario, who leads the nation in points (47), is tied for the lead in assists (13) and leads the Pac-12 in goals (17). Macario is also the only freshman on the list.
The other three teams competing in next weekend’s College Cup—Duke, South Carolina and UCLA—each have two semifinalists apiece. Seniors Imani Dorsey and Rebecca Quinn are the two Blue Devils on the list, while South Carolina senior Savannah McCaskill and sophomore Grace Fisk were also included. Quinn’s Canada teammate Jessie Fleming represents UCLA on the list, along with junior Bruin Hailie Mace.
The list of semifinalists will be narrowed down to three finalists on Dec. 8, and the winner of the 2017 Hermann Trophy will be announced on Jan. 5, 2018 at the Missouri Athletic Club’s annual trophy banquet. The full list of semifinalists is below.
|Michaela Abam||Sr.||F||West Virginia|
|Grace Fisk||So.||D||South Carolina|
|Savannah McCaskill||Sr.||F||South Carolina|
Birmingham City goalkeeper Berger diagnosed with cancer
Birmingham City Ladies goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and will undergo surgery next month, per a statement from the FA WSL club.
“Initially we were all devastated on hearing the news about Ann,” said Blues Ladies Manager Marc Skinner in the team’s announcement. “However, when we sat down together and discussed the situation almost instantly Ann eradicated the fear and uncertainty. She is one of the strongest people I have ever met and the way she conducts herself daily is a true inspiration to all of us.
“The Club and team will ensure we do all we can to support Ann and her family through this difficult time. I have total belief that Ann will beat this illness and strive to be back playing again in the future and until that time she will be a huge motivating factor for the group.”
The 27-year-old Germany native has earned the reputation as a top European goalkeeper, thanks partly to helping Birmingham City advance to the 2017 FA Cup Final and the 2016 Continental Cup Final. She joined the team in June 2016 from Paris Saint-Germain, who she helped reach the Champions League Final. Before joining PSG Berger had won the German League with Potsdam in 2012.