The Week in Women's Football: Faroe Islands eight-team league; Leichtenstein debut; Tigres take out Clausura championship; | OneFootball

The Week in Women's Football: Faroe Islands eight-team league; Leichtenstein debut; Tigres take out Clausura championship;

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Tribal Football

This week, we look at the Faroe Islands' eight-team women's league and briefly at their national team history, as they face a very difficult UEFA qualifying group for the 2023 Women's World Cup. We also report that Liechtenstein has played its first international women's game and we hope to see more from this small but beautiful land, which I have been fortunate enough to visit in the past. From CONCACAF, Tigres of Monterrey won the Clausura (Closing) Liga MX Femenil championship in front of a limited home crowd in the second leg over Chivas of Guadalajara. Tigres has sent one of the national team members on loan to the Houston Dash for the month of June.

Faroe Islands Review

The Faroe Islands (consisting of 18 major islands and close to 800 small islands) has been drawn into the 5 team Group B for UEFA's 2023 UEFA Women's World Cup Qualifying, along with Spain, Scotland, Ukraine and Hungary. Eleven European teams will qualify directly from the 9 groups along with the possibility of a twelfth side, as UEFA has one spot in the 10 team inter-continental play-ins for three Finals spot.

In the qualifiers for the then 2021 Women's EURO Finals (now next summer), the Faroe Islanders finished at the bottom of Group C, which included Norway, Northern Ireland, Wales and Belarus. The squad was able to play seven of their eight games during the COVID-affected campaign, and lost all seven matches, scoring only once and allowing 42 goals. Their 2023 WWC qualifying group includes two 2019 Women's World Cup Finalists (Scotland and Spain) and two rapidly developing sides from Central Europe (Ukraine and Hungary). As a result, the Faroes again will be given little prospect of even a draw against such competition. With the men's European Championships this summer (which will cover in full), we will watch surprise finalists North Macedonia, which albeit is a side who have defeated Germany this year in a World Cup qualifier. North Macedonia won a Finals spot after UEFA changed their qualification model to allow similar teams with lower rankings to play each other through their new Nations League competition, with one advancing from Group D and then having to win two play-offs rounds to make the Finals. North Macedonia's men's national team coach Igor Angelovski said, "I must thank Mr. [Aleksander] Ceferin [UEFA President] who made the Nations League and gave the opportunity to the smallest countries to be a part of the Euros. If you play against countries with a similar level, it is easier to qualify for Euro 2020." UEFA really needs to consider the possibility of implementing something similar on the women's side in order to give hope to nations such as the Faroe Islands that are developing their women's program. Republic of Ireland head coach Vera Pauw mentioned to me last year how in smaller UEFA qualifying groups, that one mistake can cost a team a finals spot—for the Irish it was really two—a 1-0 defeat against Ukraine in their last qualifying match on the road but even more damaging was a very late goal conceded away to Greece for a 1-1 tie that cost them two points on the road and ultimately a spot in England next summer, as they finished two points behind Ukraine (15 points to 13 points) but had a better goal difference (+1 to -5) and would have advanced to a play-in against neighbors Northern Ireland in an epic match-up if they had those two points from the Greece match, even with their final group game loss to the Ukrainians. A tiered qualification structure would allow more competitive matches between countries rather than the Faroes Islands starting every WWC qualifier as a 4 or 5 goal underdog and teams like Spain treating the trip as a long and generally unwelcome obligation, which results in them typically racking up an easy three points. That said, the Faroe Islands are nowhere near the lowest ranked side in Europe. FIFA has them at 93 of 167 women's teams in their latest (April 2021) ranking; for Europe's 55 UEFA members, they are ahead of Malta (94), Moldova (96), Latvia (97), Montenegro (98), Estonia (106), Lithuania (108), Kosovo (115), Luxembourg (122), Kyrgyz Republic (123), Georgia (126), Armenia (128) and North Macedonia (131). There are 211 member nations of FIFA so there are still more than 40 that need to play enough international games (or start a national team) to be officially ranked.

To date, the 2021 Faroe Islands' domestic league season looks like a battle between top sides EB Streymur and KI Klaksvik (both on 19 points after 9 games). Between them, the clubs have won the last 20 titles, with HB Torshavn (17 points) and NSI Renavik (16 points) still in the frame in the 8 team league.

2021 Faroe Islands

1. Dield Women's League GP W D L GF GA GD Pts

From 2001-02 to 2017-18, KI qualified for 17 consecutive UEFA WCL competitions as league champions, but never advanced from the Qualifying Round/First Stage of the competition, compiling 8 wins and 8 ties in 51 matches. EB qualified in 2018-19 and 2019-20 but lost all three of their matches each season. KI qualified again last year and in the COVID-shortened Preliminary two round stage of one game each, they lost in their first match to Valerenga of Norway 7-0.

The Faroes use very few imports in their league. KI's only import is their head coach, Serbian Aleksandar Djordjevic (52), who has coached in the nation since January 2010. HB has a coach from Denmark (43-year-old Jan Laursen, who has coached the Faroe Island's U-17 side for almost five years from 2014 to 2018) and midfielder Ida Christensen (24), who has 2 goals in 8 matches. 07 Vestur has three imports from Brazil this season:

  • Francielly Rosa (27) of Brazil has started at goalkeeper in 8 games
  • Evelin da Sikva Mastropasqua (23) has 3 goals in 8 games from her midfield spot, one behind 29-year-old teammate Margit Kwao of the Faroe Islands, who has 4 goals in 5 games this season. Kwao has played for the national team at the U-17, U-19 and full national team level.
  • Katlyn Soares (24), a midfielder, is the third Brazilian with the side this season and has played in 6 games.

Five of the eight teams in the top tier utilize an all-Faroe Islands squad: EBS/Skala, Vikinger Gota, NSI Renavik, B36 Torshaven and AB Argir/B71 Sandoy.

The picturesque setting for 07 Vestur's stadium on Vagar Island —where the national airport is located—and holds 500 fans. (Photo Courtesy of 07 Vestur).

Hervor Olsen (24) of KI leads the league in scoring with 13 goals in 9 games; she has played with KI since 2013 and won league titles in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020. She has been capped at the U-17 and U-19 level. Lea Smundardottir (19) of EBS/Skala is joint second on 11 goals—after scoring 5 last season in 20 games and is a full international—with Heidi Sevdal (32) of NSI, who is in her second year at the club; she once scored 33 goals in 17 games for HB in 2013 and has played for the full national team since 2011.

The few Faroe natives who have played abroad have moved to clubs primarily in Denmark, of which the Faroes are an autonomous territory.

Liechtenstein marks their women's national team debut with a narrow loss

Liechtenstein played its first ever women's international last month, after delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FIFA News wrote: "This was a historic occasion, not only for the players but also for the Liechtenstein Football Association (LFV). Six years after its women's U16 team's international debut at a UEFA development tournament, all the work carried out by the clubs and the national association to develop the women's game was rewarded when the senior team contested their inaugural match." Unfortunately their first home game had no fans to see a narrow 2-1 defeat in Eschen to neighboring Luxembourg, after playing exhibitions against Grasshoppers Club Zurich's U-17 side from Switzerland. Liechtenstein captain and midfielder Viktoria Gerner (FC Triesen) scored the team's first ever international goal. The team is starting slowly and plans to play Gibraltar this month in a pair of home friendlies in Ruggell (June 25 and June 27). Liechtenstein's national team coach Philipp Riedener said, "Our main aim is to take part in the next round of EURO qualifying that's due to start in autumn 2023. Between now and then, we want to have built things up to a level where we can take on other teams in a competitive environment. We're also hoping that there will be a UEFA Nations League for women, along the same lines as the men's. The advantage with that would be that we would compete against teams who are of the same standard as us."

At the club level, there are three clubs in the North of the country: FC Schaan, USV Eschen/Mauren and FC Ruggell, while in the South are four sides: FC Triesen, FC Balzers, FC Vaduz and FC Triesenberg, all of whom have top tier men's sides.

Tigres in Mexico repeated their Apertura Championship by adding the Clausura title to complete a phenomenal 2020-21 season and complete a short loan to the Houston Dash

Tigres UANL won their fourth Liga MX Femenil league title with a first half scoring outbreak in their home second leg to dispatch Guadalajara Chivas 7-4 on aggregate. They followed up a 2-1 first leg win in Guadalajara on May 24 with a 5-3 second leg victory on May 31. The Mexican leagues (men and women) hold an Opening (Apertura in the Fall) and Closing (Clausura in the Spring) championship, each involving one game against each of the other teams in the league. In the second leg, Mexican international attacking mid Lizbeth Ovalle scored twice and then Tigres captain and Mexican national team striker Stephany Mayor scored within the first 15 minutes scored to take the aggregate score to 5-1. Mayor played for four seasons in Iceland with Thor/KA of Akureyar and won the league title in 2017 while leading the league in scoring with 19 goals in 18 games—she totaled 57 goals in 68 games over 4 seasons with the club; she also played in the Women's World Cup Finals in 2011 and 2015. Chivas pulled one back through Miriam Garcia (a Mexican youth international who has been with the Goats since their first league season in 2017-18) to take the score to 3-1 in the game at the break. Then the clubs struck for three goals from the 89th minute on as another Mexican youth international—Blanca Solis—scored from a free kick and then Mayor scored her second of the match for Tigres after which Gabriela Valenzuela hit a late volley for Chivas in the 94th minute. Guadalajara won the league's first championship tournament in 2017 (Apertura) defeating Pachuca.

Atlas' 19-year-old full and U-20 international forward Alison Gonzalez led the league in scoring with 18 goals. Fellow Mexican national teamer Alicia Cervantes (27) of Guadalajara finished second on 17. In third was full and youth Mexican international Daniela Solis of Monterrey—who played a year collegiately at Portland State University—and former NWSL striker Renae Cuellar of Tijuana each with 11 tallies. Cuellar played 28 games in the NWSL's first two seasons (2013, 2014) for FC Kansas City, Seattle Reign and the Washington Spirit. Cuellar played at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada after being an alternate in Germany in 2011. She also played club ball in Sweden, Germany, Korea Republic, Iceland and Israel. Mayor of Tigres was fifth with 10 goals.

Notably, American-born (of a Mexican mother) Christina Burkenroad scored 7 goals in her first season with Monterrey—finishing tied for 10th in the league table with Mexican international Katty Martinez of Tigres, Esbedyi Salazar of Pachuca and U-19 Mexican international Alexxandra Ramirez (19) of Santos Laguna. Burkenroad went to Mexico this season after playing collegiately at Cal State Fullerton and then with the Orlando Pride, IK Grand Bodo in Norway and Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic.

A few days after Tigres championship, the NWSL's Houston Dash acquired forward Maria Sanchez on loan for the month of June. Sanchez is a full Mexican international who has scored 3 times in 24 full internationals, including making the final squad for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. She also played in the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Finals in Papua New Guinea. The Dash had originally acquired the rights to Sanchez in a trade with the Chicago Red Stars earlier this year. A native of Idaho, Sanchez played at Idaho State and Santa Clara University. She scored once in seven games with Tigres this year after playing with Chivas Guadalajara in 2020, scoring 5 goals in 21 appearances. She played in seven games with the Red Stars in the 2019 season. Sanchez (25) will not count as an international spot for the Dash since she was born in the States. Expect this move to be permanent for a vibrant and promising current international who has just come off a championship season in Mexico.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get yours copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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