Tight groups and sweet revenge in European qualifiers
Wales and England jostle for supremacy
** Republic of Ireland claim historic point in the Netherlands
** Spain get revenge on Austria ** **
The final European qualifying fixture this calendar year for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ pitted Spain against Austria, ending a massive week of qualifiers. The road to France continues in January when Israel face Finland.
The qualifying campaign has grown increasingly tense, with Wales and England vying for top spot in their group, and the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland likewise neck and neck elsewhere. Meanwhile, Spain were able to enjoy the taste of revenge and go top of their section.
Germany, Sweden and Norway all played friendly fixtures instead in lieu of qualifiers, and the Germans sent out a clear statement of intent with a 4-0 rout of France. The 2019 hosts drew 0-0 with Sweden in their next game, while Norway suffered a 3-2 reverse against Canada at the Estadio Municipal de Marbella.
Standings Group 1: Wales (10 points), England (9), Bosnia and Herzegovina, (3), Russia (1), Kazakhstan (0) Group 2: Switzerland (12), Poland, Scotland, (6), Belarus (3), Albania (0) Group 3: Netherlands, Republic of Ireland (7), Norway, (6), Northern Ireland (3), Slovakia (0) Group 4: Denmark, Sweden (6), Ukraine (4), Croatia (2), Hungary (1) Group 5: Germany (9), Czech Republic, Iceland (7), Slovenia (3), Faroe Islands (0) Group 6: Italy (12), Belgium, (9), Portugal, Romania (3), Moldova (0) Group 7: Spain (9), Austria, Finland (6), Serbia, (3), Israel (0)
November results* Group 1: No separating England and Wales * This pool appears to be a two-horse race between England and Wales after both teams faced Kazakhstan and Bosnia and Herzegovina in November. Wales kicked things off with a 1-0 victory over Kazakhstan, before England beat the Bosnians 4-0. Kayleigh Green's strike helped Wales to another 1-0 win in their next outing, while the Three Lionesses went on to thrash Kazakhstan 5-0. However, Wales will top the group going into the New Year with an extra point on the board, though they have played one match more. The two leaders go head-to-head in what is sure to be an exciting encounter in April.
Group 2: Switzerland pull clear at the top Switzerland's campaign so far can be summed up in one word: perfect. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's charges won both of their assignments in November, following up a 3-0 triumph over Belarus with a 5-1 thrashing of Albania. Their tally of 14 qualifying goals to date is bettered only by Germany (20), Belgium (16) and England (15). Victory over Scotland in April would further extend Switzerland's lead at the top.
Group 3: Netherlands and Republic of Ireland level on points All eyes were on reigning European champions the Netherlands, who could have pulled clear at the group summit with wins over Slovakia and Republic of Ireland. The Oranje Leeuwinnen started off well by brushing the former aside 5-0, but went up against tough opposition in their next fixture. "It'll be another difficult game but we'll try to find the right strategy again," said Republic of Ireland coach Colin Bell ahead of the encounter. He appeared to find it too, as his team picked up a point away from home. Northern Ireland also had reason to celebrate, with Alfie Wylie's charges beating Slovakia 3-1.
Group 4: Ukraine stay in contention Only one match was on the calendar in this group in November, and Ukraine seized the opportunity to climb up to third in the table thanks to a 1-0 win over Hungary. Daryna Apanaschenko scored the only goal of the game in the 94th minute.
Group 5: Maiden victory for Slovenia There was only one November fixture in this section too, albeit one that had no bearing on the top of the standings. Following defeats to Czech Republic and Olympic champions Germany, Slovenia recorded their first win of the campaign with a 5-0 victory over Faroe Islands, who are yet to pick up a point. Furthermore, Damir Rob's side have now conceded 32 goals so far, without managing to score at the other end.
Group 6: Italy edge ahead In the battle for top spot, which guarantees automatic qualification to France 2019, Italy pulled ahead and will go into 2018 in first place. Daniela Sabatino scored the winner in a narrow 1-0 win over Portugal that lifts the Italians onto 12 points. Both Portugal and Romania previously earned their first qualifying victories, respectively beating Moldova 8-0 and 3-1.
Group 7: Revenge is sweet This group remains tight at the top, especially after Austria (2-0 against Israel), Spain (2-1 against Serbia) and Finland (4-0 against Israel) all secured victories to stay level on points. On the final matchday, the spotlight was therefore firmly trained on the encounter between Austria and a Spain side seeking revenge against the team that knocked them out of UEFA Women's EURO 2017 in the quarter-finals. They were successful too, pulling off a 4-0 win at the Iberostar Estadi in Palma de Mallorca to go top of the table.