It was a historic day for women’s football in Switzerland on Sunday as the national side’s passage to the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ was secured for the first time. Elsewhere Sweden and Austria claimed important wins amid a host of Canada 2015 qualifying matches across Europe. Meanwhile, USA saw off a strong challenge from France under new coach Jill Ellis, while Brazil made a rare visit to New Zealand.
*Swiss head European charge *It came as a surprise to many that Switzerland earned the first European ticket to next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in a continent long dominated by other nations. A comprehensive 9-0 win over Israel, combined with a 1-1 stalemate between nearest challengers Iceland and Denmark on Sunday, saw the Swiss collect a first ever ticket to the world stage. "It is an explosion of emotions," said Switzerland’s German coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. "With this qualification, we have earned a lot of respect in the world of international women's football. No one could have expected us to go through so easily.” Iceland and Denmark now must focus on chasing the lone play-off berth available to second-placed teams across the seven groups.
*Swedes edge clear of Scots *
The other most significant result of the weekend was in Motherwell as home side Scotland, coached by Swede Anna Signeul, tumbled to a 3-1 defeat against Germany 2011 semi-finalists Sweden. Though Scotland’s prolific striker Kim Little cancelled out Caroline Seger’s opener, a double from Kosovare Asllani lifted the visitors to three crucial points. Sweden now share top spot with the Scots, but having played a match less it is the *Blagult *who hold the whip hand.
*Euro challengers continue momentum *There were few upsets across the rest of Europe in a round where big guns such as Germany and France didn’t take the field. Russia and Republic of Ireland maintained their push for a play-off berth thanks to tough one-goal wins over Slovenia and Croatia respectively. Italy eased past Czech Republic with four unanswered goals, including a double from veteran goal-machine Patrizia Panico, to maintain their pursuit of Spain. Group leaders England and Norway collected one-sided wins, while Austria revived their hopes of a play-off berth with a surprise 3-1 victory over Finland.
*USA outlast France *
USA collected a tough 1-0 victory against France as Jill Ellis commenced her full-time tenure as coach in winning fashion. A lone first-half goal from Sydney Leroux was enough for the Stars and Stripes to open the two-match series brightly. The match was also notable for the return of USA star forward Alex Morgan to the side following an eight-month absence from the international stage due to an ankle injury.
*Parity for New Zealand, Brazil *While the world’s attention is largely on Brazil 2014, the nation’s women’s team have continued their build-up for this year’s Women’s World Cup qualifiers with a two-match series in New Zealand. The opening encounter concluded with a 1-1 scoreline after New Zealand’s Rosie White scored five minutes from time to cancel out Cristiane’s goal in the latter stages of the first half. The Kiwis could easily have earned the win amid a torrential downpour in Auckland with striker Hannah Wilkinson twice hitting the crossbar.