- Italy and Spain through to France 2019
- Iceland steal a march on Germany
- Final showdown: last round of matches between 30 August and 4 September
Things could hardly be more exciting in the battle for qualifying berths for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ across Europe, with just two spots taken and six more still up for grabs.
Although there is one round to go before the end of the qualifying campaign, Italy and Spain are the first two European teams already through. The remaining countries will battle it out in the deciding matches, to be played between 30 August and 4 September, with a play-off tournament to follow.
Group 1: Wales (17 points), England (16), Russia (7), Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina (both on 3)
Group 2: Switzerland (18), Scotland (15), Poland (7), Albania (4), Belarus (3)
Group 3: Netherlands (19), Norway (15), Republic of Ireland (10), Northern Ireland (3), Slovakia (0)
Group 4: Denmark, Sweden (both on 15), Ukraine (10), Hungary (4), Croatia (2)
Group 5: Iceland (16), Germany (15), Czech Republic (10), Slovenia (6), Faroe Islands (0)
Group 6: Italy (21), Belgium (13), Portugal, Romania (both on 5), Moldova (1)
Group 7: Spain (18), Austria (13), Finland (10), Serbia (7), Israel (1)
Group 1: Welsh dream still alive
The simple way of describing this group is that Wales still refuse to bow under pressure. With wins in their two games over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russia, the Welsh leapfrogged England (who won 3-0 against Russia) and continue to hold out hope of pulling off their first ever Women’s World Cup qualification. The Three Lionesses still have the upper hand however, as they have two matches left to play, one of which is against the Welsh on 31 August. Three points there would see England home and dry.
Group 2: Second World Cup qualification within touching distance for the Swiss
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s Switzerland team did their World Cup chances no harm whatsoever with a 5-0 rout of Belarus in Minsk. Top spot in the group will be decided on 31 August when they take on Scotland, who won 3-2 against Poland courtesy of three goals in the last quarter of an hour. A draw will be enough for the Swiss women to secure their World Cup berth as they won their previous group match against the second-placed Scots 1-0.
Group 3: Crucial points up for grabs for Norway
As is the case in Groups 1 and 2, top spot will not be decided until the final round of matches. Norway maintained their hopes of direct qualification for France 2019 with a tight 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland. Four points now separate Norway from current European champions the Netherlands, whom they face on 4 September. Before then, the Norwegians will play their game in hand against Slovakia, and a win would reduce the gap behind the Dutch to just one point.
Group 4: Bitter defeat for Sweden
Sweden dropped three absolutely crucial points in their quest for direct qualification. While their neighbours Denmark cruised past Hungary 5-1, the Damlandslaget went down 1-0 to Ukraine, undoing all of their previous hard work in the group stages. Sweden and Denmark each have 15 points, and everything is pointing to their 4 September showdown to settle the group honours.
Group 5: All or nothing
This group will also see a grand finale, between Iceland and Germany. The former defeated Slovenia 2-0, taking them above the two-time World Cup winners in the table with a point to spare. The teams will square off on 1 September to see who finishes top of the group and qualifies directly for France 2019. The Germans nevertheless managed to get some much-needed confidence ahead of this vital clash with a 3-2 win over Canada in a friendly. "We experienced here against Canada what we can expect in Iceland – the same kind of formation, the same mentality, a big crowd cheering on their team," said coach Horst Hrubesch after the friendly. "It was a good test for us in that respect, and now I can tell the girls that that is the standard – that is what it will be like in Iceland. Of course it is always nice to finish the season with a win, and today’s match showed that we’re on the right path."
Group 6: Italy back on the big stage
Italy can start booking their trip over the border to France after coach Milena Bertolini’s women enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win against Portugal in Florence, taking them back onto the world stage for the first time since 1999. The Italians took the lead in the 13th minute thanks to a goal from Cecilia Salvai before Cristiana Girelli doubled their advantage and Barbara Bonansea put the icing on the cake. Le Azzurre can now play out their final group match on 4 September in Belgium with the pressure completely off.
Group 7: Spain through for the second time in a row
With a win over Israel that coincided with Finland’s loss against Austria, it meant that top spot in Group 7 was guaranteed for Spain. Goals from Maria Paz and Alexia Putellas saw La Roja book their second consecutive Women’s World Cup berth, while Austria recorded a second victory, this one a 6-0 canter against Israel, to solidify second spot. Nina Burger made history in that match, winning her 104th cap and overtaking Austria’s previous record-holder for international appearances, Andreas Herzog, in the process.
The group winners qualify directly for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, while the four best second-placed teams will go through to the play-offs, with the winner of that section getting the last spot in France.