UEFA Women's EURO 2013 sets benchmark

The UEFA Women's National Team Coaches Conference has heard how this summer's UEFA Women's EURO 2013 heralded developments in women's football and broke various records.

Silvia Neid talks at the UEFA Women's National Team Coaches Conference in Nyon
Silvia Neid talks at the UEFA Women's National Team Coaches Conference in Nyon ©UEFA.com

This summer's UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden confirmed that changes, developments and innovations within women's football continue to take this sector of the game to new levels of excellence.

The second UEFA Women's National Team Coaches Conference in Nyon this week has brought together women's national and club coaches and other national association elite technicians in the women's game, as well as observers from other continents. Together they have reviewed last July's final round, which broke new records for women's football in terms of exposure and saw further technical and tactical evolution.

"This was a new step forward for women's football," the chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee and UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund told the conference. "The EURO attracted 133 million viewers on television. It set a new record for spectators, nearly 217,000; 74% of all tickets were sold. There were 41,000 spectators at the final, with an average of 8,676 for each match. I would like to thank Sweden for organising an excellent EURO this summer."

Espelund reflected that the future of women's football looks very bright, especially in view of the excellent quality of the football on show at recent youth tournaments. Solid women's competition structures were in place, and UEFA development tournaments were giving girls invaluable international experience and proving to be a resounding success.

"You, as national team coaches, work hard, because you have a responsibility to motivate clubs, structure leagues, develop pathways," said Espelund. "I thank you for contributing to making European women's football strong. Use this opportunity [here] to learn from each other – the strongest nations also always share their experiences. There is competition when the whistle starts a match, but off the field we have strength, because we are open and share things, and we want to develop."

The technical team of experienced observers who followed the matches at the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 – Jarmo Matikainen, Anne Noé, Béatrice von Siebenthal and Anna Signeul – also highlighted the evolution of women's football. "It has improved a lot," said Von Siebenthal. "It is much more attractive, it is attracting more people and different people – there are more media, there is more exposure than ever before, expectations are greater, and the pressure is higher from outside. It is no longer just about technique and tactics – it is also about dealing with expectations on and off the field."

The technical observers noticed developments as far as players' athletic capacities and tactical flexibility were concerned. The tournament confirmed a steady trend towards a possession-based combination game, with moves built from the back and the ball on the ground. Mental strength was also increasingly important, and perhaps the most striking feature at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 was the 25% drop in the number of goals scored: 56, compared with 75 at EURO 2009. In addition to tactical, physical and technical advances, improvements in defending and goalkeeping were telling factors for the technical team in the reduction.

A special highlight of the opening day of the conference was an on-stage interview featuring Germany coach Silvia Neid – savouring her latest European title, one of eight as a player, assistant or head coach. "It was a great title to win, because we had so many injuries to key players ahead of the tournament," she explained. A young team displaying confidence, courage and passion, allied to Neid's ability to stay calm, focused and analytical on the bench, overcame initial media scepticism in particular to clinch the championship in Sweden.

Coping with success was the theme of the day's final presentation by former footballer, best-selling author and performance development expert Rasmus Ankersen, who said that it was also necessary to treat success carefully and continually re-evaluate, to avoid complacency.