An important week of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifiers begins tonight with reigning champions Germany aiming to keep up their typically emphatic start.
Already Germany have continued their long run of qualifying wins with a 5-1 defeat of the Netherlands and 6-0 victory in Wales. Tonight they welcome Switzerland to Koblenz in a match marking the 25th anniversary of Germany's first-ever women's international, which was against the same opponents at the same venue nearly 25 years ago - the home side naturally winning 5-1 with current coach Silvia Neid, then 18, scoring twice as a substitute.
Germany, of course, have their minds on their FIFA Women's World Cup defence in China next month but Neid believes this game will be good preparation. "The match fits perfectly into my plans," she said. "We have the chance to play a competitive game. The players will be challenged, I expect full concentration.” Switzerland are second in Group 4 with four points from two games, while the Netherlands hope to move on to that total when they welcome Wales on Sunday.
Before that there is a game on Thursday in Group 6 when point-less Austria play Russia, who will overtake leaders Poland of they avoid defeat. Austria then meet Israel on Sunday. There are two games on Saturday; in Group 2 the Republic of Ireland go to Romania with one of those sides to end the game in second place behind Sweden while Serbia play Greece in Group 3. On Sunday Group 3 leaders Iceland go to Slovenia, and along with the fixtures in the Netherlands and Austria, Belarus take on the Czech Republic in Group 1 with first place at stake.
The winners of each group by next autumn will join hosts Finland in the finals from 23 August until 10 September 2009. The remaining five places in the expanded 12-team tournament will be decided by five play-offs involving the six runners-up and four third-placed teams with the best records against the top four in their group.
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