The 2019-20 Vitality FA Cup final line-up has been decided, in an accelerated completion of the outstanding fixtures from last season’s tournament.
The quarter-finals took place last weekend before the semi-finals were played out midweek to set up a final at Wembley, where Everton will now face Manchester City on November 1.
On a personal note, it’s been a week of mixed emotions. Last Sunday we overcame Brighton & Hove Albion in true cup fashion, winning on penalties after the game finished 2-2 after extra-time.
The emotions of winning a game in that manner are always special and what otherwise would have been a long bus trip home was instead a very enjoyable one. That feeling was short-lived, with a quick turnaround for the body to try and feel refreshed for an in-form Everton side in the semi-finals on Wednesday in Birmingham.
The team from the Merseyside are emulating the form of their male counterparts and are also unbeaten so far this season and they have recruited extensively over the last six months to build an outfit that looks like it might be this year’s surprise package.
The first half was probably our greatest undoing and, although fortunate to be only 1-0 down and still in the game, the barrage of attacks we endured took it out of an already tired team. The lack of depth was highlighted with only one change to the 11 that won at Brighton.
The second goal was key and, after a surge in effort, it arrived as a sucker punch. That was then compounded by a third late on, after an individual error on my part when trying to be smart playing out from the back. A rough day at the office and one that weighed heavily over the days that followed.
Thursday night played host to the other semi-final – a hotly-anticipated showdown between Manchester City and Arsenal, as this would be the first time the two sides would meet this season so far.
Steph Houghton would be the one to break the deadlock with one of her signature free-kicks. The England and City captain has an eye from distance and this one is certainly up there with one of her best from 25 yards, as it nestled into the top left corner.
Arsenal came into the game as it progressed, and deserved their equaliser in the 38th minute. This time it was Houghton’s England team-mate Jordan Nobbs trying her luck from distance. A great strike, although goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck might be disappointed to have been beaten from so far out, as the ball dipped late to nestle in the middle of the net.
The lead lasted only 90 seconds, and Arsenal will be frustrated to concede after working so hard to get back into the game. City’s new American signing, Sam Mewis, found herself unmarked in the box, something that often costs team’s dearly, and she made no mistake from eight yards to put her team ahead once again. That goal would be enough to see City through to the final.
Australia look to have taken another stride forward
Australia have become one of the top women’s national sides and their continued pathway to success looks to have been boosted once more.
The aims from Football Federation Australia are ambitious, and annual targets have stretched the financial, commercial and economic scope of the women’s game.
The latest move sees them appoint former USWNT assistant coach Tony Gustavsson as the new man in charge. After success with the US team at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, the appointment will come with great expectations, as Australia will look to make a push for medals at the 2023 World Cup, that they will jointly host with New Zealand.
Over the last decade, the side has advanced from being ranked 14th in the world to a recent high of seventh.
A common argument against the increased support for the women’s game points to the lack of commercial revenue it generates or the fragility of the domestic game.
The Matildas, however, have built an innovative strategy that can overcome limitations that otherwise would inhibit growth.
The players are supported through individual and team commercial sponsors that enable FFA to additionally fund the players’ income without burdening themselves further. Meanwhile, their ongoing success has led to them benefiting from top-level support from equipment and kit sponsors.
Women’s sport is given a platform in their country which has been proven to reap benefits and bring in revenue some might argue doesn’t exist.
Scotland action drawing closer
Shelley Kerr is expected to announce her Scotland Women’s National Team squad selection early next week.
The team will be back in action on October 23 and 27, with Euro qualifiers in Finland and then against Albania at home.
The double-header will carry additional pressure as the team has not been together since March and both games will carry a “must-win” expectation, if qualification is to be achieved.
Meanwhile, BBC Alba have announced they will be showcasing the top clashes in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. The coverage starts on the opening day, as Celtic face Champions Glasgow City.