- Four teams book spot at France 2019
- Historic achievement for Scotland
- Quartet set for play-offs, including reigning European champions
When the European qualifying campaign began in April 2017, advancing to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ seemed a far-off objective and a distant dream. But, following the final whistle in the games making up the concluding matchday on Tuesday, that fantasy has become a reality for seven nations.
Aside from France, who qualify automatically as hosts, Spain and Italy already knew they would be part of the festival of football next year after having secured their slots in June, and England joined the list of European competitors on Friday when they emerged victorious from their top-of-the-table clash with Wales.
There were, therefore, four automatic tickets still to be handed out for the biggest tournament in women’s football, and they were duly claimed by Germany, Norway, Sweden and Scotland. FIFA.com looks back at a night of decisive action.
Germans ease through, eventually
Group 5: Faroe Islands 0-8 Germany
A Women’s World Cup without the two-time champions? The idea did not seem all that far-fetched at one point, after the Germans were upset at home (3-2) by Iceland. However, they made up for that slip-up by earning a hard-fought 2-0 victory in Iceland on Saturday, leaving them in a position where they needed just one point from their match against the Faroes to seal their place in France. In the end, Germany ran out comfortable 8-0 winners, and they will now have their eye on a third world crown next year across the border.
Norwegians see off the Netherlands
Group 3: Norway 2-1 Netherlands
Former world champions Norway put in one of the performances of the campaign to defeat and finish ahead of the Netherlands, winners of the 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO. It all came down to the final matchday in Group 3, with the Scandinavians needing all three points to leapfrog the Dutch, who had enjoyed a last-gasp victory (1-0) in the corresponding fixture back in October.
“We’re in first place in the group right now and want to keep it that way, of course. But Norway have won every match since we beat them right at the start of the campaign. That shows what a powerful team they are, and I expect a very close, exciting and high-quality match,” Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman had predicted to FIFA.com. And The Best FIFA Women’s Coach finalist proved to be correct in her conjecture, because the Norwegians came out on top of a closely contested encounter via two early goals from Ingrid Engen and Isabell Herlovsen.
Sweden send neighbours into play-offs
Group 4: Denmark 0-1 Sweden
Surprise runners-up at the most recent Women’s EURO, Denmark were hoping to keep up that momentum and return to the World Cup stage for the first time since 2007. But they made things difficult for themselves by forfeiting their match against Sweden in October and by drawing 1-1 with Croatia on the penultimate matchday. Nothing less than a win would do for the Swedes in Viborg on Tuesday and they produced one, with Sofia Jakobsson grabbing the winner just after the break.
Heroic Scots make history
Group 2: Albania 1-2 Scotland
A win or draw in Scotland on Thursday would have clinched a place at the World Cup for Switzerland, but the resilient home side spoiled the party by securing a 2-1 triumph. Despite that setback, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s charges knew that if they could overcome Poland, they would still qualify, but they were unable to find a way past the opposing defence in Mielec. Meanwhile, the Scots, who needed to better Switzerland's result to top the section, went 2-1 up through Jane Ross with 20 minutes to go, and held on for a result that sees them reach the Women’s World Cup for the very first time.
All not lost
Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland will need to swiftly get over their disappointment and regain their focus, because they all still have a chance of qualifying for France 2019, as do Belgium, who finished second behind Italy in Group 6. This is because the four second-placed teams with the best records will take part in the play-offs, which will involve two-legged semi-finals and a two-legged final. The eventual winners will be allocated the last European qualifying berth in France.
While four nations are celebrating and another quartet will take their chances in the play-offs, spare a thought for those whose dreams are now over. Unluckiest of all, perhaps, are Iceland who led their group until last weekend's defeat against Germany. And two dropped points at home against Czech Republic on Tuesday meant they also missed a play-off spot, allowing Denmark to take their place. Wales and Austria were the other runners-up to narrowly miss out after costly draws against lower-ranked teams earlier in the campaign.