Germany will begin their bid for a third FIFA Women's World Cup in four editions against teams including Russia, after the qualifying group stage draw was made in Nyon today.
The 38 teams given byes to this stage were joined by four preliminary round qualifiers and were split into seven groups of six. Germany, who won the World Cup in 2003 and 2007 but went out in the 2011 quarter-finals on home soil, were drawn with Russia, the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia.
Norway, the only other European winners in 1995, will face a side they both beat in 2011 qualifying and will meet at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 on 14 July, the Netherlands, as well as Belgium, Portugal, Greece and preliminary round qualifiers Albania. The Albanians are playing in their first female tournament at any level and, from seven internationals so far, boast a record of six wins and a draw.
Sweden, who took bronze in 2011 in Germany, have among their opponents a team coached by their compatriot Anna Signeul, Scotland, as well as preliminary round victors the Faroe Islands. Another side who made their senior debut in that initial phase, Montenegro, feature in Group 6 alongside two sets of neighbours: England and Wales, and Ukraine and Belarus.
The other preliminary round survivors, Malta, have a tough task against Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia and Israel, while Italy and Spain are together in Group 2. They are both competing in UEFA Women's EURO 2013 this summer, as are Group 7 rivals France and Finland, who are joined by an Austria team pipped in the play-offs.
Group 1: Germany*, Russia*, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Sovenia, Croatia
Group 2: Italy*, Spain*, Czech Republic, Romania, Estonia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Group 3: Denmark*, Iceland*, Switzerland, Serbia, Israel, Malta**
Group 4: Sweden*, Scotland, Poland, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands**
Group 5: Norway*, Netherlands*, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Albania**
Group 6: England*, Ukraine, Belarus, Wales, Turkey, Montenegro**
Group 7: France*, Finland*, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan
*Competing at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 from 10–28 July
**Qualified from preliminary round
Matches will be played from 20/21 September 2013 to 17 September 2014 on a home-and-away basis. The seven group winners qualify automatically for the finals.
The four runners-ups with the best record against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups go into the play-offs for the remaining UEFA berth in Canada on 25/26 and 29/30 October and 22/23 and 26/27 November 2014. The finals, with an increased entry of 24 nations, take place from 6 June to 5 July 2015 in Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Ottowa and Vancouver.
UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund, who made the draw with UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, said: "The World Cup is about good football, a lot of good goals, and the last World Cup was organised perfectly by Germany. We've had some very good numbers in top women's football recently – we had an excellent tournament in Germany [where] we broke new records for women's football, both for spectators and the TV audience.
"In Munich last year, we also had a very good UEFA Women's Champions League final, with 50,000 spectators, and the women's final at the Olympic Games in London saw 80,000 people in the stands. So a lot of records have been broken for women's football in the last years and we hope this continues."
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