Race to France 2019 takes shape in Europe
The European road to the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ has been mapped out following the draw for the preliminary round of UEFA qualifying, which was held in Nyon on Thursday 19 January.
This paves the way for the beginning of a campaign in which a total of 46 teams will be vying to book one of eight tickets to the next edition of the biggest event in women's football, which will take place in two years' time. With France automatically qualifying as the host nation, on this occasion the global extravaganza will feature nine European participants.
The first stage of the race involves a series of mini-tournaments to be played in Albania, the Faroe Islands, Georgia and Lithuania from 6 to 11 April this year. The draw threw up the following groups:
Group 1 Kazakhstan Estonia Georgia* Latvia
Group 2 Greece Albania* Malta Kosovo
Group 3 Israel Moldova Lithuania* Andorra
Group 4 Turkey Faroe Islands* Montenegro Luxemburg
This preliminary round will be particularly special for two countries: Kosovo, whose female national team will be making their competitive debut, and Andorra, who will be featuring in their very first Women's World Cup qualifying campaign.
"My players are very excited and have big expectations," Andorra head coach Jose Martin told FIFA.com. "All of them are very strong opponents, but this will be an excellent opportunity for us to keep on growing and learning. We're a young team and we don’t have an specific objective. Our intention is to compete to our very best ability and make things difficult for our opposition."
The winners of these mini-tournaments will go through to the next round, as will the top runners-up (namely, the second-placed side with the best record against the teams that finish first and third in their group).
The run-in In the main group stage, the 30 leading countries in the UEFA coefficient rankings will enter the fray, joining the five teams that advanced from the preliminary round.
The draw on 25 April will split these 35 countries into seven groups of five teams, who will face one another in a round-robin format from September 2017 to September 2018. Each of the group winners will clinch a spot at France 2019, while the four best runners-up will compete for the final European berth up for grabs through a play-off tournament to be contested in October and November 2018.