By Tim Grainey
This week, the Roundup looks at Europe, including some significant results in the Round of 32 of the UEFA Champions League and we profile a Bulgarian coach who worked in WPSL and the W-League who is now drawing acclaim in Kazakhstan. We also have an update on England’s FA WSL as its second season winds down.
Petkov’s Success at League and National Team Level has U.S. Roots
Kazakhstan’s National Team Coach Kaloyan Petkov, a native of Bulgaria, is catching attention throughout Europe after his team, ranked 71st in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, shocked Switzerland 1-0 last month at home in their final match of their 2013 European Championship qualifying group.
Before Petkov took over, Switzerland had defeated Kazakhstan 8-1 while Germany blasted them 17-0. In Petkov’s first game in charge four days before the win over the Swiss side, Kazakhstan lost to the reigning European champions Germany 7-0 at home; a definite improvement over the first game.
What many don’t realize is that Petkov’s career in women’s professional soccer began in Goshen, Indiana. Petkov was living in Goshen, Indiana where his wife ran track for Goshen College. A conditioning coach by trade, he began assisting FC Indiana (who originally started in Goshen) from 2005 through 2009 as they won 2 WPSL titles and were runners-up in the W-League. FCI Head Coach Shek Borkowski went to Russia to coach Perm’s women’s side in 2010 and Petkov went with him as an assistant. When Borkowski returned to the States after some management interference, Petkov was obligated to stay and finish his contract. He then went to Kazakhstan--the land locked nation bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea and the ninth largest country in the world in terms of land mass--and now is building an improving national side, much like Borkowski is doing within CONCACAF with Haiti.
Petkov doubles as the coach of BllK Shymkent, who won their league title last season and advanced to the round of 32 in UEFA’s Champions League for women. They were undefeated in Group 2 in the qualifying stage, defeating Spartak Subotica (Serbia) NSA Sofia (Bulgaria) and Parnu JK (Estonia). They currently are matched against Norwegian power Roa with a round of 16 spot at stake.
Petkov’s club side includes imports such as goalkeeper Milena Vukovic, midfielder Milica Mijatovic and forward Kristina Krstic (all of Serbia), defenders Bruna and Thaynara Lima of Brazil, Guzailiayi Yasen of China and forwards Emueje Ogbiagbevha of Nigeria, Gulnara Gabelia of Georgia and Alina Litvinenko of Kyrgyzstan. The rest of the side are all natives of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan, which straddles Asia and Europe, originally joined the Asian Football Federation after becoming independent in the wake of the fall of Soviet Union. After the 2002 Men’s World Cup qualifying cycle, they joined UEFA and now--on the woman’s side--are beginning to make ground on the major powers west of them, such a France, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
I have met Petkov numerous times during his FC Indiana days. He is funny, personable and well thought of by his players. His success is wonderful to see and testimony to FC Indiana’s early recognition of his talent and their ability to develop players (a number of World Cup and Olympic players with a number of nations) and coaches who later have an impact on the world stage.
Familiar Names in Action in European Champion’s League Round of 32
The knockout stage of the European Champions League began with first leg matches on September 25-27 involving 32 teams, with some interesting battles involving Americans or former professionals in WPS.
Kaloyan Petkov’s BllK Shymkentof Kazakhstan fell at home to Roa of Norway by a 4-0 score and probably will not proceed any further this year.
Gothenburg of Sweden, home to four Americans, beat ZFK Spartak Subotica of Serbia 1-0 on the road with a goal by former Stanford defender Cami Levin in the 40th minute. Defender Ingrid Wells (ex-Georgetown), Yael Averbuch (ex-Sky Blue FC and Western NY Flash) and Christen Press (ex-magicJack and Stanford) all played in the match. For the Serbian side, they fielded three Cameroonian imports: forward Adrienne Iven Mihamle, midfielder Gaelle Enganamouit and Claudine Meffometou Tcheno. Defender Zeljka Radanovic of nearby Montenegro did not play while the rest of the squad is comprised of Serbian nationals.
Two time reigning UEFA Champions League winners Olympique Lyon went to Finland and dispatched PK-35 of Finland with Swiss international Lara Dickenmann (ex-Ohio State University) scoring once as did former WPS star and French international Camille Abily as a substitute. Another substitute, 19-year-old Amel Majri of Tunisia, who has been capped at the U-20 level, also scored in the match.
Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic defeated WFC SFK 2000 Sarajevo of Bosnia-Herzegovina. On the roster but not playing for the Bosnian champions was American forward Jelena Vrceli, a 24 year old who was born in Serbia and has an uncle who played with Red Star Belgrade in the 1990’s. Vrceli played at Jacksonville University in Florida after high school in the same city. Sparta Prague’s loan import was Lenka Gazdilova, the 26 year old goalkeeper from neighboring Slovakia, who did not play.
Malmo of Sweden defeated MTK of Hungary 4-0 on the road with German international Anna Mittag scoring twice. American Ali Riley, who plays internationally for New Zealand, started as did Swiss International Ramona Bachmann, who played in WPS for Atlanta Beat in 2010.
Rossiyanka of Russia visited Den Haag in the Netherlands and came away with a 4-1 victory. Americans Teresa Noyola, who played at Stanford last year and is a midfielder for the Mexican National Team, and forward Elisabeth Guess, who played at the University of North Carolina, started for Den Haag. Another American, midfielder Brittany Persaud, who went to the University of Dayton, came on for the final few minutes. For Rossiyanka, Swedish international Sofia Jakobsson and Brazilian international Fabiana started at forward but two Russians shared the goals, both with braces: midfielder Tatiana Skotnikova and forward Natalia Shiyapina.
German powerhouse Potsdam won 3-1 away with American Alex Singer starting in midfield. Singer played in WPS with the Washington Freedom and then played in Australia with Perth Glory, then in Sweden with Dalsjofors GolF before journeying to Germany. The international import packed squad is led by Equatorial Guinea’s World Cup star Genoveva Anonma, Swedish midfielder Antonia Goransson, Japanese forward Yuki Ogimi and Macedonia’s Natasa Andonova. Two Americans did not play: goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and Keelin Winters in midfield (both ex-Boston Breakers in WPS) along with other imports: Belgium defender Heleen Jaques, forward Lisa Evans of Scotland, and forward Lidija Kulis of Croatia.
The two English representatives in the round of 32 should advance comfortably: Birmingham City of England’s FA WSL defeated Verona of Italy 2-0 at home, with former WPS forward Karen Carney and former Oregon State University forward Jodie Taylor starting up front. Arsenal of England beat Barcelona of Spain 3-0. Arsenal this past weekend sewed up their second consecutive FA WSL League title (see below).
Arsenal clinches FA WSL Regular Season Title Again
Arsenal clinched its second consecutive FA WSL league crown before it took the field on Sunday September 30 after closest challenger--second placed Birmingham City--could only tie Bristol Academy away 2-2. Arsenal then defeated Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC 3-2 on a goal by Kelly Smith and two own goals with one game left in the season. Birmingham has a three point lead on Everton with one game left to capture England’s second Champions League birth. Both Arsenal and Birmingham will contest the Continental Cup (League Cup Competition) later this month.
Kim Little of Arsenal leads all league goalscorers with 11 with one game left in the league season, followed by Jodie Taylor with 8 and Rachel Williams with 7—both with Birmingham City Ladies. Former WPS players Eniola Aluko has four tallies and Karen Carney has three goals for Birmingham City, while Laura Del Rio Garcia has tallied four for Bristol Academy Women. For Arsenal, Kelly Smith has three goals while Gemma Davison and Rachel Yankey both have two.
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month. Get your copy today.
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