Wednesday 20 September 2017, 11:44

No surprises as big guns make strong starts

  • Europe’s heavyweights off to impressive starts in France 2019 qualifying

  • Moldova ship 17 goals in two games and Faroe Islands 16

  • Scare for Germany in Czech Republic

With the launch of the Official Emblem and Slogan of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ in Paris on Tuesday, Europe’s teams can now see the objective in front of them as they hit the qualification trail.

There were no surprises in the opening games of the continent’s qualifying competition, held between 14 and 19 September, with the big guns making strong starts, in many cases at the expense of the continent’s smaller nations. rounds up all the action.

**Group 1 Kazakhstan 0-1 Wales, England 6-0 Russia Having now become genuine world title contenders, England are determined to back that status up on the pitch. The Lionesses kicked off their campaign in the best possible fashion against main group rivals Russia, producing a convincing, stylish display in which The Best FIFA Women’s Player nominees Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze both made telling contributions and scored a goal apiece.

**Group 2 Albania 1-4 Switzerland, Poland 4-1 Belarus, Belarus 1-0 Albania, Switzerland 2-1 Poland Following their world finals debut at Canada 2015 and their maiden UEFA Women’s EURO appearance earlier this year, Switzerland* *are now one of the continent’s leading lights. They underlined that new-found eminence by registering solid wins in their opening two matches, with Lara Dickenmann getting on the scoresheet in both.

**Group 3 Norway 4-1 Northern Ireland, Norway 6-1 Slovakia, Northern Ireland 0-2 Republic of Ireland With newly crowned European champions the Netherlands yet to make their entrance, Norway and the Republic of Ireland made the most of their opportunity to get a head start. The Scandinavians racked up ten goals in two matches, with Guro Reiten and Caroline Hansen helping themselves to three apiece. Meanwhile, the Irish picked up three valuable points on their visit to their northern neighbours.

**Group 4 Ukraine 1-1 Croatia, Hungary 1-6 Denmark, Croatia 0-2 Sweden The battle for top spot in Group 4 looks to be between Denmark and Sweden. Both sides made convincing starts away from home, with the EURO 2017 runners-up putting six past Hungary, while the Swedes eventually got the better of Croatia with two goals in the final 30 minutes.

**Group 5 Faroe Islands 0-8 Czech Republic, Germany 6-0 Slovenia, Iceland 8-0 Faroe Islands, Czech Republic 0-1 Germany After making their intentions clear with a 6-0 defeat of Slovenia, Germany had to fight hard for a second win against Czech Republic. The Czechs, who chalked up eight goals themselves against Faroe Islands in their opening match, proved tough opposition for the two-time world champions, who needed an Eva Bartonova own goal to break their resistance. Iceland got off to a flying start of their own against the Faroese, with two of their eight goals coming from new Olympique Marseille recruit Fanndis Fridriksdottir.

**Group 6 Italy 5-0 Moldova, Romania 0-1 Italy, Belgium 12-0 Moldova Determined to return to the big stage, Italy successfully negotiated their first two tests, recording an emphatic home win against Moldova and edging past Romania to take to the top of the pool. La Nazionale can expect a stiff challenge from Belgium, who began their qualification bid with a 12-0 drubbing of the Moldovans. Janice Cayman struck four to move out front as the leading scorer in the European qualifiers.

**Group 7 Serbia 0-4 Austria Having excelled on their major tournament debut at UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, where they went all the way to the semi-finals, Austria maintained their momentum with an impressive win in Serbia, the only match played in the group to date.

**Who goes through? The seven group winners qualify for France 2019, while the four best second-placed teams go into the play-offs, which comprise two semi-finals and a final. The winner of the play-offs will progress to the world finals, where Europe will be represented by nine teams in all, including hosts France.