Weekly Women in the World: Ballon d’Or & World Cup

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The Women’s Ballon d’Or finalists have been announced, Zelem resigns with Liverpool Ladies, Women’s World Cup expands and New Zealand looks to keep international stars with new national league, with women’s football constantly increasing in popularity!

Ballon d’Or nominees down to three
With the announcement of the men’s Ballon d’Or comes just as exciting news – the whittling down of the women’s list to the final three contenders.
Abby Wambach has defied her critics to land a place in the final three, even after poor form and a lack of actual playing time for her club Western New York Flash.
Wambach was slotted not to appear in the last three contenders after a poor showing in the Algarve Cup, but regardless her achievements have given her a chance at the title of best female footballer in the world.
She is up against former Flash player Marta, the Brazilian star that has already claimed for straight Ballon d’Or titles, from 2006-2010.
Strong competition also appears in the former of last year’s title holder, Nadine Kessler, the German goalkeeper, who is slated to take out the trophy for the second year running by many bookies.
The announcement comes alongside the women’s coaching list and those that are in the final three for the women’s coach Ballon d’Or are Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann, Maren Meinert, who won the under-20s 2015 World Cup with Germany, and Norio Sasaki, coach of Japan’s Asian Cup-winning side.
The announcements of the winners will be made in Switzerland on January 12th, over a month away, and there is plenty of time for people to stake their bets on the best women’s player in the world.
England U20 star Katie Zelem has signed new Liverpool Ladies contract
Katie Zelem helped the Liverpool Ladies find glory last season in the final day of the competition, before being named the Young Player of the Year by the Anfield outfit.
She also appeared for the U20 World Cup, playing for the Lady Lions just 12 months after helping the U19s complete the European Championship in the runner-up position.
Zelem expressed her pleasure at re-signing with the Lady Reds, having proved that she can be an integral part of the team and help them retain their well deserved title.
“I’m really pleased to have agreed a new contract with Liverpool Ladies.”
“I feel as though I have really improved in the last year and hopefully I can continue to improve here at Liverpool.”
“To be involved in last season’s WSL title campaign was fantastic for my development and I’m confident we can win many more trophies at Liverpool.”
Liverpool manager Matt Beard was equally as excited to have secured such apparent talent for his side, and looks forward to seeing Zelem grow even more as a footballer.
“I am delighted that Katie has agreed a new deal at Liverpool Ladies as she is one of the most promising young players in the country.”
“Katie is an exciting player with a big future ahead of her and I’m sure she can take her game to the next level once the season restarts early next year.”
Women’s World Cup Expands in Canada
It has been a long road from the 12-team tournament that was run in 1991 and 1995 for the Women’s FIFA World Cup, and even the 16-team event in the historic 1999 USA tournament pales in comparison to the expansion efforts of the most recent competition.
The plans and motions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup have finally come to fruition, with 24 teams ready to play off for the opportunity to be crowned champions of the world in Women’s Football.
The draw for the 24 teams takes place on the 6th December, and will determine which of the teams face off in tight groups to make it to the knock-out rounds.
 
Some have already began speculating however that the expansion of the competition could see lower-leveled national teams – in terms of skill – struggle against the power houses of women’s football across the world, and could equate to lop-sided scores in the group stages.
 
This possibility is far outweighed by the chance for new opportunities and the inclusion of numerous competitive teams means that the few goal-fests that might occur will be simple blips of the radar with the expansion.
 
“There might be some teams not quite up to par with the top countries in the world during this World Cup, but that’s part of the process of growing the sport,” said Alex Morgan, one of the lethal USA forwards that shines for the national team.
 
“The expansion only continues to develop the women’s game internationally and will encourage more federations to fund their women’s sides because they see what can be achieved. Every team has to take that first step, and I think things will start to even out more and more over the years.”
 
Europe was given four new direct berths in the competition, but all Cofederations were awarded at least one additional spot to take their teams into the final competition, and  this gives fans the chance to see more incredible female stars in action.
“Every European Championship and World Cup has a positive effect, especially on the host countries,” Swiss coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said. 
 
“I’m happy that there will be 24 teams participating at Canada 2015 instead of 16. That is a reflection of the positive developments in the game and the esteem it is held in.”
 
The change in the competition itself meant a chance for the format and a longer road to the final game of the series. Now, six groups play in the World Cup, with a Round of 16 now added into the tournament.
 
This system will see the top two of each group go through to the knock-out rounds of the competition automatically, while the third placed teams will compete between themselves for the final four places up for grabs.
 
52 matches will be played in Canada next year, and every single one of them will be a chance for stunning players to shine on an international level and prove that they have what it takes to be the best in the world.
 
The teams that will be competing in the World Cup are as follows:
 
Canada, USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Switzerland, England, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, China, Korea Republic, Thailand, and the final CONCACAF play off will be between Trinidad & Tobago and Ecuador, with one of the two taking the final place in the competition.
New Zealand looking to boost women’s football further
New Zealand have announced that they are looking to bring their international stars home with a domestic league that could lead to even better football being produced in the Oceanic country.
 
The Football Ferns – the name of the New Zealand international Women’s team – and Kiwi women’s football in general received a great boost after the team reached the knock-out stages of the 2012 Olympics and were granted a $1.6 million bonus over two years.
 
This influx of money was gifted by the High Performance Sport New Zealand corporation, and is giving football a chance to compete with the netball influx that has held a dominant influence in New Zealand for years.
 
More than 50 per cent of school-aged girls surveyed during a Sports New Zealand survey in 2011 said they had played football or futsal, compared to 57.1 per cent who had played netball and 84.7 per cent who had been involved with swimming.
 
New Zealand Football figures show that about 27,000 school-aged girls play the game regularly and about 4700 women took part at a senior level. 
 
Maia Jackman, the New Zealand Football girl’s and women’s developmental manager said that the ultimate goal was to set up a dedicated league in New Zealand where senior women could play at the highest level of competition, without losing them to other national leagues.
 
New Zealand Football girls’ and women’s development manager Maia Jackman, who played for the Football Ferns for almost two decades, said the ultimate goal was to set up a league in New Zealand where senior women could play at a high level of competition. 
 
Jackman said New Zealand Football implemented a plan four years ago and included in that was a framework to build the women’s game. 
 
“We want our best girls players still playing mixed football and those who just want to participate can have that option too so they don’t feel so intimidated,” Jackman said. 
 
“We have already seen now that there are more girls with better skill-sets coming through into the under-17s and under-20s that can push through into seniors.” 
 
This expansion is happening all over the world, and with the New Zealand expansion as well as the World Cup changes with 24 teams, we could see women’s football rising as a popular sport for years to come.

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