It was a massive week of international women’s football across multiple continents. Numerous UEFA Women’s EURO qualifiers took place across the Old Continent, where the traditional big names barely made a wrong step. Across the Atlantic, world champs USA bade farewell to three of their greats, while two top-ten nations visited China PR for an elite three-way contest.
Europe gathers momentum*
Big guns fire
*Some of Europe’s pre-eminent nations in women’s football have hit the ground running as UEFA Women’s EURO qualifiers build speed. France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland were among those to secure key wins this past week. Perhaps the most notable result was a 3-0 victory for Switzerland over southern neighbours Italy, with Ramona Bachmann celebrating her FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nomination with a double in Cesena. A 4-0 follow-up win over Georgia leaves Switzerland well placed in Group 6, and on track to follow their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ debut, with a maiden Euro bow. Perhaps the biggest match-up of the week was in Gothenburg where Caroline Seger’s strike just on the hour mark was enough for Sweden to see off perennial rivals Denmark in Group 4. Seven-time continental queens Germany moved well clear at the summit of Group 5 on the back of wins against Russia and Turkey.
Aspirants rise to the challenge
*Scotland and Iceland have quickly turned Group 1 into a two-horse race, with both maintaining prefect records after three rounds. Spain have only played one match thus far, but it was a crucial 2-1 win in Finland over the Group 2 *leaders. Belgium took advantage of England’s absence to move top of *Group 7 *with a 5-0 win in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Finally, 2013 runners-up Norway overpowered Wales 4-0 for a second successive win, but it is Austria who sit top in **Group 8 having played a match extra.
Oranje shine brightly *
New Netherlands coach Arjan van der Laan has made an immediate splash as the *Oranje Leeuwinnen inflicted a rare home defeat on France in Paris with a 2-1 scoreline. The second match of the week was a more mixed affair for the 2017 hosts, who were losing 1-0 in Poland before floodlight failure in Wroclaw forced an abandonment. France, for their part, still look imperious in Group 3, however, thanks to a 3-0 win in Ukraine.
*USA farewell trio in style *USA have said goodbye to three of their long-serving greats over the past week as Shannon Boxx, Lori Chalupny and Lauren Holiday played in the red, white and blue strip for the last time. Brazil, however, nearly spoiled the party after taking an early lead in the opening match in Seattle, via a goal from Monica. However, the day was saved by none other than Carli Lloyd whose magic touch arrived five minutes from fulltime, thus protecting USA’s long unbeaten home record which now sits at 102 matches. The second contest in Orlando was more straight forward for the home side in front of 33,000 spectators. After leading 2-1 at half-time, the win was sealed in the dying moments as Stephanie McCaffrey scored on her debut.
*China top of three-cornered contest *China PR have started life under former France coach Bruno Bini in fine fashion, winning a three-way tournament against two other teams who enjoyed a strong showing at the recent Women’s World Cup – England and Australia. China defeated Canada 2015 semi-finalists England 2-1 with Shuang Wang netting a double, before drawing 1-1 against Australia. England then saw off Australia as Isobel Christiansen scored the only goal of the game early in the second period, with the result leaving the home side narrowly top on goal difference.