Predictably strong start for favourites
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The major European women’s leagues enjoyed a break from domestic action at the weekend as the first round of qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ got underway. Between now and September 2014, a total of 42 European teams spread across seven groups will fight it out for the continent’s eight assigned places at the showpiece event. FIFA.com reviews the pick of the action so far.

EURO champions Germany lay down marker
Just 55 days after their triumph at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 in Sweden, Germany sent out a clear statement of intent in World Cup qualifying. Silvia Neid’s charges began their campaign with an emphatic 9-0 win over Russia, immediately securing top spot in the table. Nadine Kessler, Dzsenifer Marozsan (two goals each), Celia Sasic, Lena Gossling, Melanie Leupolz, Bianca Schmidt and Fatmire Bajramaj were the goalscorers in an easy victory.

“I’m happy. We’ve got three points, scored nine goals and made the best possible start to our qualification campaign,” said Neid in an interview with dfb.de, the German FA’s website. “Even when we were in the lead, we didn’t take our foot off the gas, and that was good. The players enjoyed themselves and every one of them wanted to score.”

Group rivals Republic of Ireland also started off with a win, overcoming Slovakia 2-0 in Dublin courtesy of goals from Julie Ann Russell and Denise O’Sullivan. 

Hills steers England to opening victory
After a poor showing at this summer’s EURO brought an end to Hope Powell’s 15-year tenure as coach, there was understandable anticipation ahead of England’s first game of this new era. Powell’s replacement Brent Hills, who was formerly in charge of the U-23s, could not have wished for a better start, however, as the Three Lionesses coasted to a 6-0 success over Belarus

In contrast, European Championship hosts Sweden made much harder work of their opening encounter at home to Poland, whose compact defence was only breached in the second half. Goals from Caroline Seger and Lotta Schelin eventually secured a 2-0 victory for Pia Sundhage’s side, who sit second place in their group behind Scotland – 7-2 winners over Faroe Islands

Austria and Switzerland free-scoring
"We want to challenge for top spot and we certainly have a good chance of doing that,” Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, Switzerland national team coach, said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com last week. Her charges duly delivered with a hugely impressive 9-0 rout of Serbia in what was the biggest win ever recorded by a Switzerland women’s senior side in a competitive game. Olympic Lyon’s Lara Dickenmann shone throughout, as did 1. FFC Frankfurt striker Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, who weighed in with four goals. 

Neighbours Austria also got off to a good start, with Dominik Thalhammer’s side cruising past Bulgaria 4-0 in Vocklabruck. Nina Burger, Laura Feiersinger and Jennifer Poltl put the hosts in control, before an own goal from Bulgaria's Nikoleta Boycheva and a Jennifer Poltl effort rounded off the scoring in stoppage time."

The next set of matches take place this Wednesday, when EURO 2013 finalists Norway and 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympic semi-finalists France begin their campaigns. 

Results:
Germany 9-0 Russia (Group 1)
Republic of Ireland 2-0 Slovakia (Group 1)

FYR Macedonia 1-9 Romania (Group 2)
Estonia 1-5 Italy (Group 2)

Switzerland 9-0 Serbia (Group 3)

Sweden 2-0 Poland (Group 4)
Faroe Islands 2-7 Scotland (Group 4)

Belgium 2-0 Albania (Group 5)

England 6-0 Belarus (Group 6)

Kazakhstan 0-2 Finland (Group 7)
Austria 4-0 Bulgaria (Group 7)