Records and big wins to end the year

  • Several teams romped to high-scoring victories in November

  • Important successes for Switzerland, England, Spain and Denmark

  • Qualifying continues in February 2022

The final qualifying matches of the year for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ had it all. Well over 200 goals were scored, countless records broken and vital victories celebrated.

Europe: Results in November

Group A A brilliant final half-hour helped Sweden seal a 2-1 win over Finland, with Lina Hurtig scoring the decisive goal ten minutes from time. With Republic of Ireland and Slovakia drawing 1-1 and the Swedes beating the Slovakians 3-0 in their second November game, the Scandinavians were able to consolidate their position at the top of the table. "The atmosphere was fantastic here in Malmo," said Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson, who has been nominated for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach award. "It’s great to play here and give the crowd three goals and three points to cheer. We’re ending 2021 on a high note after what has been a really good year for us. We’ve put ourselves in a very strong position in World Cup qualifying too." The Republic of Ireland also recorded a crucial 11-0 win over Georgia, with seven different scorers propelling the Irish into second place.

Group B The most eagerly-awaited encounter in this group was the match between Spain and Scotland. Pedro Martinez Losa’s team were still unbeaten thanks to Abi Harrison’s last-gasp equaliser against Ukraine, while Spain were brimming with confidence after their resounding 12-0 win over the Faroe Islands. The last time Scotland travelled to Spain, they suffered a heavy defeat in the play-offs for UEFA Women’s EURO 2013. It was a similar story this time around, as the team ranked 22nd in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking were soundly beaten 8-0.

Group C The Czech Republic seem to be something of a bogey team for the Netherlands, who finished runners-up at France 2019. Both teams shared the points again this week, just as they did in the reverse fixture in September. The 1-1 stalemate in Groningen was followed by a 2-2 draw in Ostrau, with Stefanie van der Gragt only netting the equaliser for the Dutch in stoppage time (90’+3). Meanwhile Iceland, who have played one game fewer than their rivals, seized the opportunity to collect three vital points with a 4-0 win over Cyprus. The Icelanders now have nine points from four matches to sit in second place behind the Netherlands, who have 11 points from five games.

Group D England ground out a narrow 1-0 win over Austria in a top-of-the-table clash, with Ellen White scoring a 39th-minute winner in front of around 9,000 fans in Sunderland on her 100th game for the Lionesses. "A defeat is a defeat, but I’m still incredibly proud," said Austria coach Irene Fuhrmann after the match. "The team played as a unit and implemented their gameplan almost perfectly. We can take plenty of positives from this courageous performance." The Austrians went on to win their second match against Luxembourg 8-0, while England thrashed Latvia 20-0. It was the Lionesses’ biggest-ever victory, with Ellen White surpassing Kelly Smith to become England’s all-time leading goalscorer along the way. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland notched up two comfortable victories. Kenny Shiels’ team were at their devastating best once again as they beat North Macedonia 9-0 in Seaview, having already racked up a record-breaking 11-0 win against the same opponents in Skopje on Thursday.

Group E Denmark appear to be in with a good chance of securing their berth at Australia & New Zealand 2023 after failing to qualify for the 2011, 2015 and 2019 tournaments. They kicked off the November window with a 3-0 away win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica to take their tally to 15 points. Lars Sondergaard’s side continued their flawless qualifying campaign on Tuesday, defeating their closest rivals Russia 3-1 to move another step closer to direct qualification.

Group F Belgium dispatched Armenia by an impressive 19-0 scoreline to smash their previous record victory of 12-0 against Moldova in September 2017. The result gave the Red Flames a much-needed boost after their 4-0 defeat by Norway in October. This rediscovered confidence was on full display in their game against Poland, where a brace from Tine De Caigny and goals from Hannah Eurlings and Janice Cayman helped the Belgians beat their opponents 4-0. Meanwhile Norway continued their excellent run of form with a 7-0 win over Albania, and were beating Armenia 9-0 when adverse weather forced the match to be suspended in the 71st minute. The game was completed on 1 December, with the Norwegians adding one more goal to seal a 10-0 victory.

Group G Switzerland took another big step towards their second Women’s World Cup appearance by notching their most important win to date on the road to Australia & New Zealand 2023. Despite facing Italy, who had yet to drop a point in qualifying, the Eidgenossinnen ran out 2-1 winners. They followed this up with an emphatic 7-0 victory over Lithuania on Tuesday to consolidate top spot. However, the Italians remain hot on the heels of Nils Nielsen’s side after beating Romania 5-0.

Group H Switzerland took another big step towards their second Women’s World Cup appearance by notching their most important win to date on the road to Australia & New Zealand 2023. Despite facing Italy, who had yet to drop a point in qualifying, the Eidgenossinnen ran out 2-1 winners. They followed this up with an emphatic 7-0 victory over Lithuania on Tuesday to consolidate top spot. However, the Italians remain hot on the heels of Nils Nielsen’s side after beating Romania 5-0.

Group I France defeated Kazakhstan 6-0, with six different goalscorers steering them to their fifth win in as many games. "We wanted the three points and we got them," Les Bleues coach Corinne Diacre told television channel W9 after the final whistle. "The way the match played out enabled us to make changes early on and give Griedge [Mbock] ten minutes of playing time." The Brest-born centre-half was making her international comeback after a lengthy injury layoff. The next task for the French was to strengthen their position by beating Wales, who also saw off Greece in the previous game. They navigated this challenge successfully, with goals from Kadidiatou Diani and Selma Bacha handing them a 2-0 victory.

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