Women's Football

Euro hopefuls eye glory, parity for heavyweights

Alex Morgan #13 of the USA and Saskia Bartusiak #3 of Germany battle for the ball
© Getty Images

The European leagues took a break at the weekend, as the spotlight fell on crucial qualifying play-offs for the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden and a round of international friendlies. Domestic competition continued elsewhere in the world, with the first matchday in the Australian W-League, and the latest instalment of the end of season run-in in Japan.

FIFA.com reviews the latest developments in the world of competitive women's football.

*Demoralising defeat for Austria *The starting field for the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 is almost complete. Six teams met in the first leg play-off fixtures, aiming for a decent result to take into the deciding matches for the precious last three berths at the finals. However, Austria's dream of competing on the European stage took a severe dent in the first meeting with Russia at the NV Arena in St Polten. Coach Dominik Thalhammer’s side fell 2-0 to the eastern Europeans and now have a mountain to climb when the teams meet again in Rostov on 25 October. Valentina Savchenkova and Natalia Shlyapina scored the first half goals to wrap it up for the Russians.

“I think the luck we've enjoyed in recent matches deserted us today," Thalhammer was quoted as saying on the Austrian FA homepage. “The Russians pulled everyone back and made perfect use of their chances. This is a bitter defeat, but we're certainly not giving up. If the match goes our way in Russia and we take the lead, everything is still possible. The vital thing will be to score the opening goal."

*Iceland set to progress *By contrast, Iceland have high hopes of claiming one of the remaining places in Sweden after Sigurdur Eyjolfsson’s team triumphed 3-2 away to Ukraine, with the home leg in Reykjavik still to come. Scotland also kept alive their chances of the EURO following a 1-1 draw with Spain in front of a 4,058 crowd at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Kim Little tucked away a 26th-minute penalty to open for the home side, but Adriana Martin levelled four minutes later. Adriana could have sealed victory for the Spanish on the stroke of half-time but missed from the spot.

*Honours even between US and Germany *Elsewhere, Germany have already booked their spot at the EURO and continued their warm-up programme with a stress test against quality opposition. In the first of two full international meetings with the USA, Silvia Neid’s injury-hit team battled to a 1-1 draw. Veteran Abby Wambach handed the Olympic gold medallists the lead, but Anja Mittag equalised for the Europeans. The two women's footballing powers meet again on Wednesday in East Hartford, Connecticut.

*Australia: Stunning hat-trick lights up opening day *Adelaide United clawed victory from the jaws of defeat in a real thriller on opening day in the Australian W-League. Adelaide were 3-1 down to debutant club Western Sydney Wanderers with 77 minutes gone, but Sarah McLaughlin came riding to the rescue. The New Zealand striker blasted a hat-trick in the space of 11 minutes, the winner coming with just 120 seconds to play, to rescue an unlikely win for the Lady Reds.

Perth Glory also started the new season with a win, albeit in less spectacular fashion. The Glory delighted their home fans with a 2-0 success against Melbourne Victory to go top of the embryonic table. Former Germany international Ariane Hingst and her Canberra United team were held to a goalless draw by Brisbane Roar in a Grand Final rematch. Meanwhile, Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw, with fullback Ellyse Perry providing the assists for all three of the Sydneysiders' goals.

Top three: Perth Glory, Adelaide United (3 points), Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC (1)

*Japan: Leonessa on brink of more glory *INAC Kobe Leonessa remain the gold standard in Japanese club football. On matchday 15, the defending champions beat Albirex Niigata 2-1 to chalk up their 14th win of the season.

FIFA World Player of the Year Homare Sawa and Co need just a single point from their last three matches to be mathematically sure of retaining the title. In a head-to-head between the teams in second and third, NTV Beleza beat Okayama Yunogo Belle 3-1 and moved five points ahead of their rivals for the runners-up spot.

Top three: INAC Leonessa (43), NTV Beleza (34), Okayama Yunogo Belle (29)

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