UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship holders France were among the winners as the 11 qualifying round groups began today but the plaudits must be shared by one of the three debutants, Malta, who made a stunning comeback to hold Serbia.
The 11 group winners and 10 runners-up with the best record against the sides finishing first and third in their section join top seeds Germany, England and Spain in the elite round from 5 to 10 April. Seven teams will qualify for next July's final tournament alongside hosts Norway.
Group 1 (hosts: Austria)
Austria have the early advantage after an 8-0 defeat of Israel, captain Nicole Billa, who scored 16 goals in nine Women's U17 appearances, getting a hat-trick on her bow in this competition. Israel never recovered from Noam Achtel's red card just before the break. Croatia, who meet Israel on Monday, overcame Azerbaijan 3-1 despite falling behind to Nigar Jalilli on 12 minutes. Monika Conjar and Gabrijela Gaiser exploited defensive errors to make it 2-1 before the break and Conjar struck again after Azerbaijan missed chances to level.
Group 2 (Republic of Ireland)
Denmark, aiming for a third straight qualification, made light work of beating Greece 4-0 with Sarah Hans striking twice and winger Thøgersen Frederikke proving a constant threat down the right. The Republic of Ireland had even fewer prolems seeing off Kazakhstan, five up at half-time and going on to win 7-0, Clare Shine claiming a hat-trick.
Group 3 (Lithuania)
Sweden and Portugal seem to have taken control of the section after opening wins. Winners in 2012 but knocked out in the group stage in Wales last month, Sweden saw off Estonia 8-1 inspired by eight-goal Stina Blackstenius, though Saron Läänmäe's free-kick was a consolation. Portugal overcame Lithuania 4-0, the goals coming before the break.
Group 4 (Finland)
The Czech Republic eased to a 7-0 win against the Faroe Islands, Kateřina Svitková scoring a hat-trick and proving a danger from set-pieces. Finland then defeated Moldova 4-0, like Portugal scoring all four before half-time including two by Vera Saastamoinen.
Group 5 (Belarus)
Russia and Belarus, who meet in Minsk on Monday, both enoyed success. It was comfortable for Russia as they defeated Cyprus 7-1 despite it being 1-1 at the break. The excellent Margarita Chernomyrdina got a hat-trick and then Ksenia Kovalenko and substitute Elmira Piskunova both scored two. Belarus edged Wales 1-0 in a tight game when Anastasia Gagakhova's corner found Tatiana Krasnova in the box and her shot was turned into her own net by Samantha Quayle. Wales were then denied by excellent keeper Olga Goryd.
Group 6 (Serbia)
The Netherlands hold a two-point lead after making the most of their physical superiority over Bosnia and Herzegovina in a 2-0 win, Elze Huls striking twice. Making their competition debut, Malta held Serbia 2-2 with goals in the last five minutes from substitute Raina Giusti and captain Brenda Borg turning around a game the hosts had dominated.
Group 7 (Slovenia)
Albania did not have as happy a debut as Malta as they were beaten 9-0 by a physically and tactically superior Poland, boasting several 2013 European U17 champions, with five goals before the break and Martyna Wiankowska completing a hat-trick by striking twice in added time. The other match as a hard-fought 2-2 draw between Italy and Slovenia, who trailed at the interval but led with 19 minutes to go thanks to Vanja Šiljak's strike after some nifty footwork and assist by Karmen Ulbin, only for Francesca Pittaccio to respond with her second goal of the match and the hosts had to hold on for the point.
Group 8 (FYROM)
Scotland impressed against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, winning 7-0 with two Caroline Weir strikes, the key a four-goal salvo in the last 13 minutes of the first half. Romania defeated Georgia 5-2, Nicoleta Deca claiming a hat-trick. Ana Cheminava had the consolation of a great solo goal for Georgia as she slalomed past four defenders.
Group 9 (Bulgaria)
Holders France started their title defence with a 4-0 win against Slovakia. Fielding six of the squad that triumphed in Wales, France went ahead on seven minutes through newcomer Audrey Chaumette. Captain Griedge M'Bock Bathy made it two on 54 minutes and another 2013 winner Sandie Toletti, who opened the scoring in the final against England, then struck twice. Iceland are top after beating Bulgaria 5-0.
Group 10 (Hungary)
Lucinda Michez and Elke Van Gorp were the key to success for Belgium in their opener against Turkey, with two goals and one assist each in a 4-0 victory, combining well in a front three with Silke Leynen. Hungary ran out comfortable 4-1 winners against debutants Montenegro at a windy Telki, Anna Vidovenyecz starting things off with a spectacular first-time long-distance shot into the top corner. There were other fine goals from substitute Fanni Diószegi and Nóra Vicsek.
Group 11 (Latvia)
A dominant Ukraine could have beaten Latvia by more than the 3-0 scoreline they managed. Switzerland then overcame Northern Ireland 3-0 courtesy of Melanie Müller, Anja Thürig and Francesca Calo, though Moya Feehan could have levelled things when her side wrere just one down.
Reporters: Ernst Schneider, Javier Ala, Andrius Pacevičius, Jukka Malm, Andrei Vashkevich, Ivan Vjetrović, Milan Vuković, Grega Sever, Rok Šinkovc, Emil Gasevski, Ivan Vasevski, Tomáš Čunčík, Andy Clark, Sergey Vorobyov & Oleg Sokol.
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