Rio contenders fine-tune, EURO aspirants chase glory
Nations from all corners of the globe have made the most of this week’s FIFA women’s international match calendar double-date, with numerous matches played. In Europe, UEFA Women’s EURO qualifiers took centre-stage, while several other nations took the opportunity to fine-tune ahead of the fast-looming Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016. FIFA.com reviews all the action from matches played from the past couple of days.
European contenders build for September finale Thirteen further matches were played on Monday and Tuesday in UEFA Women’s EURO qualifying following a busy schedule in the preceding days. Upsets were far and few between with one-sided wins a theme. Finland’s scoreless draw against the visiting Portugal proved an exception to the rule. While no further nations followed up Switzerland’s qualification from the weekend, a host of teams are now assured of second spot and at least a berth in the play-offs. Top-two group spots are now confirmed by Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, England, Belgium, Norway and Austria, who all follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Spain. The eight group winners and the six best runners-up will all advance to the final tournament, while the other two runners-up will meet in October for a final ticket to Netherlands 2017.
Trans-Tasman rivals shape up again Australia and New Zealand are among those building for Rio 2016 and the pair played out two contrasting contests in recent days. Home side Australia dominated the opener on Saturday, winning 2-0 thanks to a sparkling brace from the in-form Caitlin Foord. However, New Zealand bounced back on Tuesday, and the Aussies needed an equaliser from co-captain Lisa De Vanna to earn a 1-1 draw, after Katie Bowen’s maiden international goal briefly threatened to end a 22-year winless run for the Football Ferns against their trans-Tasman rivals.
Heavyweights share wins It was a similar tale as two more Rio 2016 sides – Canada and Brazil – shared the spoils. Huge crowds turned out in bright sunshine for the two matches, which were played a year since the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ kicked-off in Canada. While Brazil won the first match thanks to a Marta double, Canada won the second as a late Janine Beckie goal on Tuesday sealed victory for the Canucks in front of 23,000 in Ottawa – just shy of the 28,000 attendance in Toronto three days earlier. "The fans do make a difference,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “In the first game the players struggled a little bit playing at home, but tonight they certainly got the grips with it and I thought this time it showed what the potential is of this team pushing in to Rio."
Momentum continues for hosts 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO hosts Netherlands faced Rio-bound South Africa in a two-match series. The Netherlands won the opener 1-0 in a match played behind closed doors, before triumphing 2-0 - against the side coached by former Oranje Leeuwinnen mentor Vera Pauw - thanks to a double from the ever-prolific Vivianne Miedema.** **
Uncommon meeting for Asian duo Korea Republic made a rare visit to Myanmar for a two-match series against the host nation, who are preparing for next month’s AFF Women’s Championship for southeast Asian nations. The two matches in Yangon undoubtedly proved valuable for Myanmar, but it was Korea Republic who came away with one-sided 5-0 and 4-1 victories.