From activism for social equality to shock transfers and broken records – the year in football
In the strangest of years, there have still been plenty of incidents in the world of women's football. From records broken to shock transfers and political campaigning, 2020 has seen it all. Carrie Dunn takes us through some of the biggest moments of the last 12 months.
Women's football review of 2020: Lucy Bronze, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Vivianne Miedema
It was the fulfilment of England manager Phil Neville's prediction from more than a year ago.
After the World Cup quarter-final victory over Norway, the then England boss hailed his right-back, saying: "She is the best player in the world. She should win the Ballon d’Or, 100 per cent. I have no doubt about that. What you saw tonight was a player playing at the top of her game, and that is her level of performance. The bigger stage, the bigger the performance."
2019 wasn't her year, but 2020 certainly was as Lucy Bronze picked up the FIFA/FIFPRO Best Award at a virtual ceremony.
"To know you're the best in your position and that's what everybody thinks - it's fantastic to get awards from fans and coaches saying nice things, but the players who play against you know better than anyone," Bronze told Manchester City's website.
Lewandowski and Bronze named The Best by FIFA
Vivianne Miedema - best striker in Women's Super League history
The 2019/20 Women's Super League season shut down at the start of March, and was eventually decided on a points-per-game calculation. Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema was the campaign's top scorer, with 16 goals to her credit.
The 2020/21 Women's Super League season started up in September. Within six weeks, the Dutch striker wrote herself well and truly into the record books with a hat-trick against Tottenham, and in the process she overtook Nikita Parris' status as the league's all-time top goalscorer. With 52 goals in 50 WSL appearances at the age of 24, it's likely she will extend that streak even further.
Lyon - best in Europe
Following the season hiatus, the Women's Champions League was concluded with an intensive couple of weeks in Spain, with single-leg knock-out fixtures for the eight teams remaining in the competition. The different format didn't have any effect on the outcome - Lyon won the trophy for the fifth consecutive year and seventh overall, beating VfL Wolfsburg 3-1. They continue to set the standard for the rest of Europe to follow.
Lyon celebrate winning their seventh Champions League title
Image credit: Getty Images
Pernille Harder - star
After the Champions League final, another record was broken - the transfer record for the women's game as Wolfsburg's Danish star striker Pernille Harder signed for Chelsea. The first-ever two-time winner of the UEFA Women's Player of the Year Award, Harder is also Eurosport's Star of the Year for 2020.
Lewandowski, Harder claim Star of the Year awards
Alex Morgan - shock
With the USA's National Women's Soccer League suspended and then truncated, many of its top stars headed to England to get in some game time. That included the shock signing of the year - World Cup winner and video game cover star Alex Morgan joining Tottenham. On the comeback trail after giving birth to daughter Charlie, she made five appearances in north London, scoring twice, before heading back Stateside before Christmas.
Alex Morgan of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Tottenham Hotspur Women and Aston Villa Women at The Hive on December 13, 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
Megan Rapinoe - social justice
One of the most recognisable faces in the women's game, the American didn't get much game time this year with the NWSL in abeyance. That didn't mean she was sitting at home with her feet up, though - she continued her magnificent activism for social equality. And on the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, she tweeted a clip, reminding everyone of her refusal to meet Donald Trump after the USA's World Cup win in 2019.
Olympics - cancelled
It became evident by the middle of March that the coronavirus pandemic was going to put paid to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. As always, this was a big deal for women's football, with the Games on a par with the World Cup when it comes to significance. With so many of the top leagues suspended for most if not all of 2020, 2021 promises to give a much better indication of the global game.
Phil Neville - out
Despite going into it as defending champions, England had a poor campaign at this year's SheBelieves Cup, so the pressure was increasing on boss Neville at the start of the year. His departure, though, was surprising in its timing, coming at the end of April. It still is not clear exactly who is going to lead Team GB in the postponed Tokyo Olympics. Cynics are of the opinion that the former Manchester United player clung on as long as he could to the Lionesses hot-seat in the hope of coaching the unified Great Britain side at the Games - and his contract reportedly expires in July 2021.
Lionesses boss Phil Neville
Image credit: Getty Images
Sarina Wiegman - in
It could be, however, that the responsibility for Team GB falls to Sarina Wiegman, the current Netherlands coach who will be taking over the England job some time next year. It was a surprising yet pleasing announcement after the farcical scenes following Mark Sampson's departure in 2017, when it became apparent that none of the leading coaches in women's football wanted the role at all. This time, however, one of the most respected coaches in the game has come on board. If Neville takes responsibility for Team GB at the Olympics, her first task will be steering the Lionesses through the European Championships...now delayed to 2022.