France, Italy and Denmark all increased their grip on their UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying groups on Wednesday, while Belgium beat Iceland to overtake their visitors and Norway's revival continued apace. UEFA.com rounds up the latest games in the race to reach next summer's finals in Sweden.
France stretched their winning run since finishing fourth at the FIFA Women's World Cup to 14 by defeating Wales 4-0 in front of 16,000 fans in Caen. Élodie Thomis chipped Nicola Davies for the early opener, added another with a flick and early in the second half ran on to a Gaëtane Thiney ball to complete her hat-trick. Camille Abily added the fourth and with five perfect group victories, France now lead Group 4 by 12 points, though that margin will be reduced when Scotland welcome the second-placed Republic of Ireland on Thursday. Nevertheless, France know a home win against Ireland on 15 September will ensure their finals place prior. Wales trail their 16 June hosts Ireland by only two points but have played two games more.
The other unblemished runs in qualifying were kept up by Italy and Denmark in what were probably their toughest tests. Italy now lead Group 1 by nine points after seven wins thanks to their 2-0 triumph away to second-placed Russia, inspired as usual by captain Patrizia Panico, who scored on eight and 65 minutes in a dominant display. They will qualify on 16 June with a win against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who are bottom but drew 2-2 in Greece for a second point today.
Denmark hold a five-point Group 7 lead with three matches left after coming away from the previously unbeaten Czech Republic with a 2-0 win courtesy of Katrine Veje and Pernille Harder, her eighth goal of qualifying. The Czech Republic are level in second with Austria, who welcome Portugal tomorrow before visiting the Czechs on 16 June. By then Denmark will know if a win at home to the Czech Republic on 20 June will guarantee qualification.
Belgium are now top of Group 3 after ending Iceland's unbeaten start with a 1-0 win in Dessel. Hólmfrídur Magnúsdóttir was denied from point-blank range by Belgium goalkeeper Sabrina Broos, who also stopped two long-range efforts before the break, and on 66 minutes Julie Biesmans sent Tessa Wullaert clear on the counter to chip Thóra Helgadóttir for what proved the winner.
The result leaves Belgium, who have played a game more than their main group rivals, a point ahead of Iceland, who are now only one ahead of Norway after they stormed to a 5-0 win in Hungary for a second victory in a week. Again Hege Hansen came off the bench to claim two goals as she also did on her competitive debut in the 3-0 victory in Bulgaria on Saturday, while Ingvild Stensland scored direct from a corner, Cecilie Pedersen and Gry Tofte Ims having struck early. Northern Ireland, in fourth, will be within three points of Belgium if they beat Hungary in Lurgan on 25 April.
As well as Scotland's match with Ireland, other Thursday games include Germany visiting Switzerland hoping to maintain their Group 2 lead over Spain, who welcome Kazakhstan, while Group 5 leaders Finland play Slovakia as Ukraine face Estonia and the Netherlands can move five points clear of England in Group 6 by beating Slovenia.
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