Thursday and Friday were the first two of five days of European qualifiers for the France 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and resulted in both Spain and Italy booking their places.
GROUP 1 – Leadership changes hands twice
Wales regained the leadership for England with a narrow victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kayleigh Green with the goal not long after Helen Ward had a penalty saved.
Less than 24 hours later and Lionesses were back in pole position after a 3-1 success in Russia. All the goals came in a 15-minute first-half spell, Nikita Parris and a Jill Scott double for Phil Neville’s side, Elena Danilova pulling one back.
GROUP 2 – Scotland cut Swiss lead
Scotland moved to within three points of top team Switzerland but had to come from behind to beat Belarus 2-1. Karina Olkhovik put the visitors in front but Erin Cuthbert levelled in added time before netting the winner midway through the second period.
GROUP 3 – Norway leapfrog Ireland into second
There was a double defeat for the Irish, with Netherlands running out 5-0 winners in Northern Ireland and Norway 2-0 victors in the Republic of Ireland. Goals by Lisneth Beerensteyn, Danielle van de Donk, Shanice van de Sanden, Jackie Groenen and a Sherida Spitse penalty helped the Dutch go four points clear. Norway are up to second with a game in hand after Lisa-Marie Utland score both goals in their game.
GROUP 4 – Scandinavian duo chase first place
Sweden went six points clear of Denmark at the top with a 4-0 defeat of Croatia. Stina Blackstenius scored in either half, with substitute Elin Rubensson and Hanna Folkesson on target in the last half hour.
Denmark cut the Swedes’ advantage back to three points with a 5-1 result in Ukraine. Nadia Nadim scored twice including a penalty but later missed from the spot, Sanne Troelsgaard got two late goals and Pernille Harder the other, before a consolation from Olha Ovdiychuk.
GROUP 5 – Second win for Slovenia
Slovenia doubled their points tally at the expense of the Faroe Islands, beating them 4-0 with two goals in each half. Lara Ivanuša got the opener, Mateja Zver added a brace including a penalty and Lara Prašnikar scored a late fourth.
GROUP 6 – Azzurri end wait for World Cup return
Italy were comfortable winners of following their seventh victory in a row. Cristiana Girelli and Cecilia Salvai had them 2-0 up in only 13 minutes against Portugal, with Barbara Bonansea completing the scoring in added time.
GROUP 7 – Austria hand Spain top spot
Spain scored early and late in the second half to defeat basement side Israel 2-0. Maria Paz and Alexia Putellas found the net to leave the Spanish on the verge of qualification after six straight wins.
That qualification was confirmed the following evening as Finland went down 2-0 at home to Austria. Emma Koivisto’s early own-goal was added to by Katharina Schiechtl in the last 20 minutes.