FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying is back under way with only the eight group winners in August earning the chance to play off for places in the 2011 finals in Germany. Some potentially decisive matches are played this week, most notable Italy against Finland on Wednesday and England versus Spain the following night. UEFA.com looks at the state of play.
Just as in their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 qualifying group, France and Iceland are locked in a two-horse race in the only six-team pool. France beat Iceland 2-0 in October so after four games each are three points ahead. On Saturday Iceland visit Serbia and France welcome third-placed Northern Ireland, who have three points from two games. Croatia also play Estonia before taking on Iceland on Wednesday, when France have their return against Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Norway, World Cup winners in 1995, have won both their games to lead Belarus and the Netherlands by two points. The Dutch have played a game more, having lost to fellow EURO semi-finalists Norway, and Slovakia are a point further back before Saturday's trip to the Netherlands. On that day Norway play FYR Macedonia and they go to Belarus on Tuesday, two days before the Netherlands visit Slovakia, which will be Vera Pauw's last game in charge.
Leaders Denmark were surprisingly held in Bulgaria in October but hope to put that right in Saturday's return in Vejle. Scotland, a point behind the Danes with a game in hand, have won both matches and hope to continue that in Georgia, who Denmark visit next Thursday. Scotland play Bulgaria in Falkirk that night. Greece, level on points with Scotland having played two games more, return to action in Georgia on 15 April.
Poland are the surprise leaders with nine points from four games, one more than Hungary and five ahead of EURO qualifiers Ukraine, who have played a match fewer. The bottom two Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania meet on Saturday. Four days later Poland visit Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina welcome Hungary, who make the trip to Ukraine on 21 April.
As in Group 1 there is a replay of EURO qualifying with Spain and England competing for first place, and neither has dropped a point ahead of next Thursday's meeting at Millwall FC. England have won two games to Spain's four and their third fixture is at home to Austria tonight. On Saturday point-less Malta and Turkey meet.
In the first qualifier of 2010 on Sunday, the Republic of Ireland won 3-0 in Israel to move level with Russia though the leaders have two games in hand, as do Switzerland who are three points back. On Saturday Switzerland play Israel and the following day Russia take their perfect record to Kazakhstan. Ireland hope to avenge September's 2-0 defeat in Switzerland when they play again on Wednesday.
Both Italy and Finland have four wins out of four, making Wednesday's fixture in Ascoli pivotal. Italy will hope to have opened up a gap after their Saturday visit to third-placed Portugal, who play Armenia on Wednesday. The trip to Italy will be new Finland coach Andrée Jeglertz's first competitive game in charge.
Sweden have nine points from three games and are in control of the group. Belgium are two points behind but have played five times, though they can stay in contention when Wales – Sweden's opponents on Wednesday – visit on Sunday. The Czech Republic are the surprise occupants of fifth place but can revive their campaign in Azerbaijan on Saturday before a trip to Belgium.
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