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Play-off race reaches final stretch

Published: Tuesday 17 August 2010, 17.15CET
The FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying groups conclude on Saturday and Wednesday with six teams to earn places alongside England and Italy in the 30 August play-off draw.
by Paul Saffer
Play-off race reaches final stretch
Iceland and France meet in a group decider on Saturday ©Sportsfile
Published: Tuesday 17 August 2010, 17.15CET

Play-off race reaches final stretch

The FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying groups conclude on Saturday and Wednesday with six teams to earn places alongside England and Italy in the 30 August play-off draw.

England and Italy are already through to the FIFA Women's World Cup play-offs; six teams will join them when the qualifying group stage concludes over the next week.

Only the eight group winners will enter the draw on 30 August with Sweden, Norway, France, Denmark and surprise packages Poland and Switzerland in pole position. Most of those sides, though, must face their nearest challengers in the deciding matches on Saturday and Wednesday.

The play-off draw will be seeded according to results in this qualifying competition and that for UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009. The winners will join Germany in the finals next summer while the losers will then compete for a further place in the UEFA-CONCACAF play-off.

Group 1
In UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 qualifying, France had to beat Iceland in the final match to secure top spot in their group and duly did so. Fortunes are reversed this time as Les Bleues are top with eight straight wins and 42 unanswered goals in the sole six-team pool. A point in Reykjavik on Saturday would wrap up the group for France and as they beat their rivals 2-0 at home, Iceland will need a three-goal win to take the head-to-head lead before Wednesday's fixtures, when they visit Estonia and Bruno Bini's team play Serbia.

Group 2
Norway, world champions in 1995, drew 2-2 in the Netherlands in June and need just a point from either their trip to Slovakia on Saturday or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia four days later. If Norway lose both, then the Netherlands would finish top if they win in Belarus on Saturday.

Group 3
Unbeaten Denmark's 1-0 June win in Scotland is the key result in the group, as they lead their rivals by four points with one game left to their rivals' two. To snatch top spot, Scotland must beat Greece on Saturday and defeat Denmark in Vejle on Wednesday. Although Denmark, yet to concede a goal, only need a point for first place, a win could prove vital for them in the race for play-off seeding.

Group 4
Four teams have been in contention in this section but now only Poland and Ukraine can make the play-offs. The former are not in action on Saturday but would win the group then if Ukraine do not defeat Romania in Chernigov. Should Ukraine secure victory, they would overtake Poland if they win the meeting of the two contenders in the same venue four days later.

Group 5
England's 3-0 win against Turkey at the end of July put them beyond the reach of Spain. However, the competition for play-off seeding means England's trip to third-placed Austria on Saturday remains of importance.

Group 6
Switzerland's away wins in the Republic of Ireland and Russia have put them on the verge of an unexpected play-off place. That would be confirmed with a win at home to bottom side Kazakhstan on Saturday. If Switzerland slip up, then top seeds Russia could overtake them with victory in Ireland on Saturday and at home to Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

Group 7
Italy clinched first place on 23 June with a 3-1 win away to their nearest challengers Finland in the Azzurre's last group fixture.

Group 8
Sweden are six points ahead of the Czech Republic with two games to go and would make sure of first place with a point in Prague on Saturday. Even if the Czech Republic win, they would still need to defeat Azerbaijan on Wednesday and hope Sweden lose in Wales.

Last updated: 17/08/10 18.01CET

http://www.uefa.com/womensworldcup/news/newsid=1513639.html#play+race+reaches+final+stretch

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