UEFA Women's EURO 2017 set new standards, and Europe's women's football technicians have met in Amsterdam to analyse tactical and technical developments from the tournament.
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With this summer’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 still fresh in the memory, UEFA returned to the host country, the Netherlands, on Monday to look back at a tournament which set impressive new benchmarks in the progress of women’s football.
Experts came to Amsterdam to review the finals, in particular from a technical and tactical perspective, as well as to debate the evolution of women’s football and analyse how the women’s game at this level should continue to move forward with purpose in the future.
The UEFA Conference for Women’s National Team Coaches brought together coaches from UEFA's 55 member associations, who linked up with UEFA’s Women’s EURO technical experts, members of the UEFA Women’s Football Committee and Development and Technical Assistance Committee, and delegates from FIFA and its other continental confederations.
For the first time, 16 teams took part in a Women’s EURO final tournament, and UEFA Women’s Football Committee chairwoman Anne Rei said that the decision to increase the field for this year’s edition had been justified, as it had given more players than ever before the opportunity to perform on the highest European women’s national team stage.
“The tournament was also fascinating for fans and observers alike,” she added, “because we were able to see the emergence of new national teams as a force to be reckoned with, alongside other, more established countries.”
“A number of talented newcomers announced their arrival as genuine top players, who look certain to leave their mark in the women’s game in the coming years.”
One crucial tactical element that marked the tournament was the evolution in defending, with teams highly organised defensively.
This, the conference heard, had led to a record low goals average per game of 2.19 in 31 matches, in which a total of 68 goals were scored. The challenge for the future would be for teams and coaches to find the key to unlocking this defensive solidity and set up new attacking strategies.
Mental preparation had also grown in importance at this level of the women’s game, with teams well-prepared mentally for the tournament.
“Playing on home soil means there is pressure,” said Sarina Wiegman, coach of the Dutch title-winners, in the Women’s EURO 2017 technical report, issued at the conference. “So we took a mental coach on board, If you also prepare [players] for the things that can go on around the tournament, that already does a lot.”
“The tournament demonstrated that the environment can be difficult to handle,” explained UEFA technical observer Hesterine de Reus. “I think that mental coaching support becomes really important in these circumstances.”
Allied to developments in mental strength were the increased fitness levels that have gone hand in hand with the evolution of elite women’s football.
Teams were sufficiently fit and disciplined to stay fully concentrated throughout matches – 88% of games with goals were won by the team who scored first and kept their focus until the final whistle.
Technicians expressed concern at the difficulties that young players often faced in stepping up from Under-19 levels to the senior teams. Work needed to be done to help players bridge the gap in this transition period towards professional level at clubs and at national-team level.
There was agreement in Amsterdam that the drive to increase the number of women coaches in football should continue to gain impetus. UEFA is spearheading this campaign with its women’s coach development project, launched last year.
The profile of women’s football had also been boosted significantly by the EURO, which had attracted record attendances. The total of 240,045 spectators beat the previous record of 216,888 at the 2013 finals in Sweden.
Audiences were also higher than before, with a global cumulative live audience of 178 million viewers watching the action, and record figures recorded in several markets. Some 5.9 million minutes of live streams were watched on UEFA.tv.
The aim to create a festive event had been achieved, with various activities and initiatives gaining widespread exposure and generating interest in UEFA’s drive to encourage girls to play football – in particular through the UEFA Together #WePlayStrong campaign launched ahead of the finals.
Award to Wiegman
Sarina Wiegman was presented with a special award by Anne Rei at the conference for her achievement in bringing the Netherlands their first Women’s EURO title after only six months at the helm – a success that promises to have an important impact on the country’s women’s football.
"We agreed to show who we are, show what we can do and show that we can play together as a team,” she said of the team’s objectives at the EURO. “There was teamwork, there was fighting spirit and we also wanted to play good football.”
“We tried to take the pressure off throughout,” she said, “saying that we were just going to do our best. That took us all the way.”
“But the important thing is that people started to love the women’s game, and I hope this adds to the development of women’s football.”