Jones: Tight qualifying battle ahead

The European qualifying draw for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™ was made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Tuesday. Some 41 of the continent’s women’s national teams will do battle for just four guaranteed starting berths at the first FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in Germany. The team finishing fifth in the qualifying contest will play off for one last place at the 2011 finals against the nation finishing third in CONCACAF qualifying.

Steffi Jones, President of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 Organising Committee, took time out from a UEFA Grass Roots Workshop in Hamburg to give her initial reaction to the draw. "I’m expecting a fierce battle for the four-and-a-half places at the Women’s World Cup. The top teams in Europe are tightly-bunched nowadays, as many countries have put in a great deal of good work in women’s and girls’ football," the OC President commented.

"The fixture schedule includes some extremely attractive matches. Obviously, you have the usual suspects such as Sweden, Norway, England, Denmark, France and Russia, but we should all keep a very close eye on a number of the other teams. Reigning U-19 European champions Italy, European Championship hosts Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Scotland are among the teams who’ve made enormous progress in recent years, and are now capable of beating anyone else on their day. Naturally, I’m looking forward to attending some of the matches in person," Jones continued.

"Our goal as the Organising Committee is to be warm and welcoming hosts for the 16 teams at the finals. The Women’s World Cup 2011 is a unique repeat opportunity to show the world we’re a hospitable and joyful nation."