There was no shortage of fascinating international action during the week as numerous European qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ took place, with England and Norway now within reach of their goal, and a host of aspirants still jostling for a play-off spot. USA needed all their guile, plus a handy intervention from high-profile forward Alex Morgan, to stave off France in a heavyweight contest Stateside, while New Zealand played host to Brazil. Finally to Canada wher the Women’s World Cup hosts tackled Germany.
USA narrowly survive French test
USA had Morgan to thank for saving their ten-year unbeaten home run, with the star forward netting the second of her double five minutes from full time to earn a 2-2 draw against France in East Hartford. The home side edged a narrow win earlier in the week as the pair reprised their epic 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final, with Les Bleues twice taking the lead, firstly through a Louisa Necib penalty and then via an Amandine Henry strike. However Morgan, who only returned from a seven-month injury absence a fortnight ago, netted twice in the second half to move tenth in the Stars and Stripes’ all-time goalscoring list.
World Cup hosts edged
Canada made Germany work overtime in another high-profile international in Vancouver before the Europeans eventually secured a 2-1 win. A youth-orientated Canada side drew level through Sophie Schmidt, after Lena Lotzen had put Germany ahead during the opening half. Lotzen then had a hand in the winner, earning the penalty which was converted by Simone Laudehr to repeat the scoreline between the pair in the 2011 Women’s World Cup opening match.
European charge intensifies
Norway and England have one hand on Canada 2015 qualification after midweek wins strengthened their grip on top spot in their respective groups. Both have handy five points margins with two matches to play, with England securing a tough 2-1 win in Ukraine thanks to early goals from Casey Stoney and Eniola Aluko, while Norway were 2-0 victors in Portugal.
The race for second and a play-off berth has become marginally clearer, most notably with Russia holding out for a hard-earned scoreless draw against the visiting Republic of Ireland. Wales are virtually assured of a play-off ticket thanks to their 3-0 win in Belarus as striker Natasha Harding collected a late treble. Meanwhile, Switzerland celebrated becoming the first European nation to qualify for Canada 2015 earlier this week by claiming a 7-0 win against Serbia, as star forward Lara Dickenmann led the way with a brace.
Parity for Kiwis, Brazil
Brazil concluded their two-match series in New Zealand with a second successive draw. The second match in Taupo on Thursday remained scoreless although it was the Football Ferns, playing their 200th international match, who came closest to finding a winner after an Amber Hearn header crashed off the crossbar during stoppage time. Brazil are preparing for September’s Women’s World Cup qualifiers, while the Kiwis will vie for a Canada 2015 ticket a month later.