Euro Roundup: World Cup Qualifying Special

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Welcome to Euro Roundup! This edition will be a bit different: with European World Cup qualifying nearing the end, we will take a look at how recent qualifiers have gone as well as the state of play with future qualifiers.

While other federations have recently kicked off their qualifying campaigns, national teams in Europe have been in qualifying since September of last year. With the majority of it completed, some teams are close to booking their place in the World Cup in France in 2019.

Group 1

England took on Wales in what was to be the toughest test so far. A record crowd of 25,603 people watched the match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton. Wales set themselves quite defensively and their game plan worked. The way they set up made them really hard to break down. The best chances were long-range ones but Laura O’Sullivan made some amazing saves on the day and Wales took away a well-deserved point.

While that was it for Wales, England had one more game this time against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia have been and were again a frustrating team to play against, but England came away with a 2-0 win this time and went to the top of the group.

Group 2

Group 2 saw some close matches again. It kicked off with Switzerland taking on Scotland. Switzerland had won all their previous matches in qualifying and looked to continue that here. It was closely contested, with the Swiss winning 1-0 with the winning goal scored by Lara Dickenmann.

The following day, Poland and Albania saw out a 1-1 draw with goals scored by Katarzyna Daleszczyk and Geldona Morina. The final day of matches had Albania taking on Belarus and Scotland taking on Poland. Albania beat bottom-of-the-table Belarus 1-0, but it wasn’t easy. Lucie Gijini scored just a couple of minutes from time to take all three points.

Scotland vs Poland was a close match as well but there were a couple of incidents that changed the game. First, Scottish goalkeeper Lee Alexander saved a penalty. Later on, Paulina Dudek was sent off after getting her second yellow and that opened the game. All three of Scotland’s goals were scored in 12 minutes. Zoe Ness scored her first international goal in the 79th minute, Claire Emslie scored seven minutes later, and Erin Cuthbert rounded off the scoring in extra time.

Group 3

The Netherlands had a double helping of the Irish in these qualifiers as they took on both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland were up first, and another record crowd of 30,000+ were in attendance—the Dutch European Championship win really has changed attitudes and opened up people’s mind to women’s football over there. They were in for a real treat as the Netherlands thrashed Northern Ireland 7-0. A few of the more notable names were in on the scoring. Lieke Martens opened the scoring and doubled the lead eight minutes after her first goal. Vivianne Miedema added another, and Sherida Spitse made it 4-0 when she put away a penalty before halftime. There wasn’t much let up after the break. Shanice van de Sanden made it 5-0, with Spitse getting her brace, and an own goal sealed the deal.

It was a tougher test in the next match, with just a 2-0 win against the Republic of Ireland. The previous fixture between the two had ended in a draw, but the Orange Lionesses weren’t taking any chances with that this time. Lineth Beerensteyn and Sherida Spitse scoring the only goals in the game, with Spitse putting away yet another penalty.

Group 4

Sweden and Denmark look to be the teams that might be progressing from their group but the order is yet to be decided. Only one team can progress automatically, with the runner-up up having to see if they will be one of the four teams in the playoffs. Right now, Sweden are in the driver’s seat. They only played once but made it a good win.

Hungary were on the end of a 4-1 defeat with Fanni Vago getting at least something from the game. Caroline Seger, Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius and Mimmi Larsson were all on target that day. Meanwhile, Denmark won as well, but it was quite tough. They came up against Ukraine who are trying to get into the playoff spot at least, and they won by only a goal which was scored by Sanne Troelsgaard.

Group 5

Group 5 could throw up surprises later on, but it was pretty much business as normal this time. After going through a tumultuous time, Germany’s interim coach guided them to a good 4-0 win over the Czech Republic. For one of the players, however, it was a great game. Lea Schuller got all four goals that match, scoring two goals in each half.

Iceland are keeping pace with the Germans and are only two points behind with a game in hand. They had two games and came away with two wins. First up was a trip to Slovenia. They came away from that game with a close 2-0 win with goals from Gunnhildur Jonsdottir and Rakel Honnudottir. The next away game was a bit easier. Faroe Islands did really well in the preliminary stage, winning all their games, but have struggled in qualifying. Iceland won quite comfortably with five goals from five different goalscorers. Jonsdottir and Honnudottir scored yet again, as well as Harpa Thorsteinsdottir, Agla Maria Albertsdottir, and Fanndis Fridriksdottir.

Group 6

Italy is absolutely flying in Group 6 and look to be one win away from booking their ticket to the World Cup. They are in a group with fellow Euro 2017 teams Belgium and Portugal, but have won all of their matches so far.  They faced bottom side Moldova and managed to win 3-1. Italy scored twice in the first half with the first goal coming in the eighth minute. Anastasia Toma got one back for Moldova just before halftime, but Valentina Giacinti got the final goal.

The Azzurre faced a tougher test in the next match against the Belgians. The Red Flames took the lead when Janice Cayman slotted home a penalty. Just a few minutes later, Martina Rosucci got the Italians back in it. Cristiana Girelli scored the winner 10 minutes from time and kept the winning run going.

Group 7

Spain is also flying through their group stage. They have won all of their games so far and are on 15 points with Austria in second with seven. With three games remaining for both, Spain aren’t quite mathematically there just yet, but they are very close.

First up, Austria faced Serbia and they were a tough test for them. Serbia took the lead just a few minutes in but undid that good work by conceding an own goal. They held on and drew 1-1 with Austria dropping crucial points. Next up, Austria faced Spain in what was a Euro 2017 rematch. Spain avenged the Euro defeat with Jennifer Hermoso scoring the only goal.

Predictions

So who looks to be qualifying, who will be in the playoffs, and who may just miss out? As previously mentioned, Spain and Italy look set to be qualifying automatically in their next games. Spain face Israel on June 7 and Italy face Portugal on June 8. Switzerland look firm favorites to qualify as well, but there is a small matter of a game against Scotland who are behind them with a game in hand. The deficit is only six points so a win for Scotland could change things up. The Netherlands could qualify yet again. The Republic of Ireland are three points behind, but luckily they have both played each other home and away. It’s more about who could get second and a possible playoff spot. Norway won’t want to miss out on a World Cup, and they have a game in hand over the Republic of Ireland, as well as being only one point behind. They do still have to face each other both home and away; Republic of Ireland will host on June 8th and Norway will host on June 12th.

As previously mentioned, Sweden and Denmark are fighting it out for that top spot in Group 4 with Sweden three points ahead. This is another group where the top two will face each other. They face each other on the final day of qualifying which is September 4. Points will be crucial for Denmark, as they may miss out on playoffs as the other results stand at the moment. The biggest shock of all could come from Group 5. Iceland are currently second but they are only two points behind Germany with a game in hand. They shocked everyone by beating the Germans in qualifying earlier on. If they repeated that feat, they could qualify automatically with the Germans quite likely to be in a playoff spot. The crucial match between the two will take place on September 1.

Ending up where we began the roundup, Group 1 could have an interesting ending, with England leading the group just two points ahead of Wales. The two face each other in what is likely to be another well-attended match on August 31. However, with how certain results could fall, this encounter may be more attacking. Either side of that game, England face Russia and Kazakhstan away with wins looking likely in both. Wales face Russia as well as the stubborn Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It’s shaping up to be quite some race for those all-important World Cup spots so keep your eyes open in a couple of months time and see just who will go and who will falter.