Denmark, England, the Netherlands and Finland are on the verge of booking their places at UEFA Women's EURO 2013, while Spain clinched a play-off berth after the latest set of qualifying group games.
There are two sets of matches to go on 15/16 and 19 September when the sections finish. All seven group winners and the best runners-up (not counting results against the sixth-placed teams in the larger Groups 1, 2 and 3) progress to the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 final tournament from 10 to 28 July alongside hosts Sweden. The other six runners-up go to the play-offs for the remaining three places.
Qualified: Italy, Germany, Sweden (hosts)
Clinched at least play-off: France, England, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Austria
Confirmed in play-offs: Spain
Italy clinched first place on Saturday but the race for second place is very much on. Poland kept their hopes alive on Wednesday, beating the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 4-0, Donata Leśnik opening the scoring, Sandra Sałata adding goals either side of half-time and Anna Żelazko heading in the fourth. Russia swiftly restored their two-point advantage in the play-off race by winning 1-0 in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a 73rd-minute Elena Morozova penalty. Russia welcome Poland on 19 September but could have clinched a play-off spot the previous weekend.
Germany too were confirmed as qualifiers at the weekend and on Thursday Spain sealed a play-off place. They cruised to a 4-0 win against Turkey which included two goals from María Paz to take her qualifying tally to ten. The side that beat Spain at the weekend to remain in the hunt, Switzerland, fell 4-2 in Romania thanks to a Laura Rus hat-trick.
Iceland, Norway and Belgium remain at one-point intervals with two games left after midweek wins. On Wednesday, Norway took until the second half to take control against Northern Ireland, winning 2-0 in the last 13 minutes when a Lene Mykjåland corner flew straight in and Maren Mjelde got the clincher. Belgium won 3-1 in Hungary, Janice Cayman and Anaelle Wiard scoring second-half goals in sweltering conditions, but Iceland returned to the top on Thursday with a convincing 10-0 victory in Bulgaria. Katrín Jónsdóttir, Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir and Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir all scoring twice. On 15 September Norway welcome Belgium and Iceland play Northern Ireland, whose hopes are now over and four days later it is Norway v Iceland while Belgium visit Northern Ireland.
France will have to wait to confirm qualification after Rachel Corsie's goal gave Scotland a 1-0 win away at Republic of Ireland, who are now out having lost by the same score at home to Wales on Saturday. Wales beat Israel 5-0 on Wednesday with a Natasha Harding hat-trick. Scotland are five points behind France, who will qualify with a win at home to Ireland on 15 September or draw in Scotland four days later. Wales, meanwhile, can deny Scotland a play-off berth by beating them on 15 September and hoping for a Les Blues win in the last match.
Finland are all but qualified after Annika Kukkonen, Sanna Talonen, Leena Puranen and Annica Sjölund – who earlier missed a penalty – struck in a 4-0 defeat of closest rivals Belarus. Ukraine, who lost to Finland on Saturday, won 2-0 in Slovakia thanks to Vira Dyatel's cool finish and Tetyana Romanenko's fine lob against a side that had much of the play but lost Lucia Ondrušová to a first-half red card. Both Belarus and Ukraine are three points ahead of Slovakia but six adrift of Finland, who will clinched a finals place with a point in Estonia on 15 September.
The Netherlands' hopes of winning the group may have faded with Sunday's 1-0 loss in England but on Wednesday they completed their fixtures as two first-half Manon Melis goals set them on the way to a 4-0 victory in Serbia, which, if they do not end top, puts them in a strong position to finish as best runners-up (only Scotland and Austria can mathematically deny them). A day later England won 4-0 in Slovenia, set on their way to by Jill Scott goals, and victory at home to Croatia on 19 September would take the 2009 runners-up to Sweden.
Denmark returned to the top of the group as they secured a sixth straight win and 25th unanswered goal, ending the Czech Republic's hopes with a 1-0 win thanks to Nadia Nadim's 55th-minute solo strike. Only Austria, two points behind with one game left to Denmark's two, can now catch the leaders. Austria, who ensured at least a play-off for the first time, welcome Denmark on 15 September.
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