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Women's Football News
This week, Arsenal were named and awarded The Sunday Times 'Team of the Year' at the prestigious ceremony held at Lord's Cricket Ground.
Just eight months ago, Arsenal, the most dominant team in English women's football over the past two decades, finally reached the women's UEFA Cup Final, without doubt, their finest moment and the pinnacle of their sport. No British team had ever succeeded at this level before but, thanks to a resolute and gritty 1-0 victory in Sweden, against the formidable Umea IK who included Marta, the world's leading female footballer, and then a goalless draw in the second leg at Boreham Wood, Arsenal had achieved the unthinkable.
"This was our best achievement, being the first team to win it outside of Germany and Sweden," said Faye White, the Arsenal and England captain, after receiving the Pindar Team of the Year award from Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson.
"It was a massive effort from everybody at the club. To put on the final for UEFA as well is a big thing. We are pleased to have won it."
Striker Kelly Smith, the leading English player of her generation, added: "Hopefully we can equal it this year. We are playing Lyon on Wednesday night and drew 0-0 in the first leg, in the quarter finals. Our aim is to retain the Cup."
This Award, more than any other announced on the afternoon, was arguably the hardest one for the judges to decide given the strong contenders involved. Those teams honoured included the Great Britain women's quadruple sculls, consisting of Katherine Grainger, Fran Houghton, Debbie Flood and Annie Vernon, who won gold at the world rowing championships in Munich, and the Yngling world champion trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, who have qualified for next summer's Beijing Olympics.
Indeed, given such a stellar line-up, it had to take something special to stand out. Arsenal achieved this with an unprecedented clean sweep of major domestic and European trophies throughout 2006-07. First came the Premier League Cup, won with a late strike from Jayne Ludlow against Leeds United, and then the FA Women's Premier League title for the ninth occasion and fourth successive time, which was wrapped up relatively quickly given that they won all 22 of their matches, scoring 109 goals in the process.
Then came the UEFA Cup Final - "afterwards we got texts from Arsene Wenger, Dennis Bergkamp, David Dein and Peter Hill-Wood, they said they were proud of what we achieved," admitted striker Rachel Yankey - before the unprecedented Quadruple was secured with victory in the FA Women's Cup final. A 4-1 win over Charlton was witnessed in front of 24,529 fans packed into the City Ground in Nottingham, a record attendance for a women's club game in Britain.
With England's success at the recent football World Cup finals in China, when Hope Powell's team reached the quarter finals, the interest in women's football looks set to increase.
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