Italy clinched a place in the FIFA Women's World Cup play-offs this week but although the other seven groups are yet to be decided, the potential lineup has become much clearer. England and Norway both came from behind for draws that leave them in very strong positions, fellow 2007 qualifiers Sweden moved closer to ensuring top spot in their pool and Switzerland won 3-0 in Russia to turn their group on its head.
Only the eight group winners when the qualifying round concluces on 25 August will go into the two-legged ties to produce four teams to join hosts and holders Germany in next summer's finals. The four play-off losers will then compete for a further place in the UEFA-CONCACAF play-off. UEFA.com looks at the state of play and ahead to the coming fixtures.
As expected, the sole six-team group will be decided when France visit Iceland on 21 August. Both sides won twice this week; Les Bleues beating Croatia 3-0 and prevailing 6-0 in Estonia while Iceland defeated Northern Ireland 2-0 before also overcoming Croatia 3-0. France have not dropped a point and beat Iceland 2-0 at home so Siggi Eyjólfsson's side must win by three goals in the Reykjavik rematch to have a realistic chance of qualifying. A draw would confirm Les Bleues in first place regardless of what happens on 25 August when they play Serbia and Iceland visit Estonia.
Norway's 2-2 draw in the Netherlands on Saturday kept them in full control of the group, though having fallen behind early in Zwolle the visitors then led before substitute Anouk Dekker's 80th-minute equaliser. That goal meant Norway's 3-0 defeat of Belarus on Wednesday did not clinch first place but a point in either of their remaining games in Slovakia on 21 August or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia four days later would send Eli Landsem's side into the play-offs.
On Saturday, Denmark beat Greece 7-0 and Scotland won 5-0 in Bulgaria to set the scene for Thursday's first meeting of the top two in Kilmarnock. Visitors Denmark won 1-0 and Scotland trail by four points with two games left to the leaders' one. Scotland must both beat Greece on 21 August and win in Denmark four days later to snatch first place.
No group has had more twists and they continued this week. Leaders Poland were held 0-0 by Hungary on Saturday, effectively ending the hopes of the second-placed visitors, while top seeds Ukraine won 5-0 in in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, on Wednesday, Ukraine themselves drew 0-0 in Romania, who still retained mathematical hopes themselves, and Poland beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 the next day to move five points clear of Anatoliy Kutsev's side. Ukraine have a game in hand against Romania on 21 August and need to win that match and then beat Poland in Chernigov four days later to pip their fellow UEFA EURO 2012 hosts to top spot.
In Saturday's crunch tie in Aranda de Duero, Spain needed to beat England by two goals to wrest the initiative from the 2007 quarter-finalists, and after 67 minutes led by that margin only for the visitors to come back to draw 2-2. Spain beat Malta 9-0 in their last fixture on Thursday, Adriana adding four goals to her one against England to take her tally to a competition-leading 16, but a win for England against either Turkey in Walsall on 29 July or in Austria on 21 August would be enough for Hope Powell's team.
Russia welcomed Switzerland on Saturday having not dropped a point and knowing a win would virtually seal first place. Instead Switzerland secured a stunning 3-0 result with Selina Kuster's 18th-minute strike added two by a pair of late goals within 60 seconds from Ramona Bachmann, and they went on to clinch a 4-2 victory in Kazakhstan. Russia beat Israel 4-0 on Thursday but Switzerland will go into the play-offs with a home win against point-less Kazakhstan on 21 August.
Sweden missed the chance to decide things this week as they were held 0-0 at home by the second-placed Czech Republic on Saturday. However, Sweden's 17-0 defeat of Azerbaijan on Wednesday, equalling the record margin of victory in a senior UEFA women's competition, left them six points clear with two games left and they need only a point either in the Czech Republic on 21 August or at home to Wales four days later.
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