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Women's World Cup places on the line

Published: Thursday 9 September 2010, 11.12CET
The first legs of the four qualifying play-offs are this weekend, with Sweden meeting Denmark, Norway facing Ukraine, France against Italy and Switzerland visiting England.
Women's World Cup places on the line
Denmark have a tough trip to Sweden on Saturday ©SFA
Published: Thursday 9 September 2010, 11.12CET

Women's World Cup places on the line

The first legs of the four qualifying play-offs are this weekend, with Sweden meeting Denmark, Norway facing Ukraine, France against Italy and Switzerland visiting England.

There will be no room for error when the FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying play-offs begin with the first legs this weekend.

Only four European teams are guaranteed to join hosts Germany in next summer's final tournament, and they will emerge when the eight qualifying group winners meet in two-legged ties over the next week.

Three of the first legs are played on Saturday and the first to kick off looks the pick of the ties as Sweden play Denmark at the Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg. Sweden will be hoping to repeat their form when the teams met after the last World Cup to decide a place at the 2008 Olympics, winning 7-3 on aggregate.

Norway, who lifted the World Cup in 1995 and like Sweden have never failed to qualify, are away from home on Saturday as they visit Ukraine in Chernigov. Unlike their visitors, Ukraine are yet to play in a World Cup, having only reached their first UEFA European Women's Championship finals in 2009. Their key midfielder Vira Dyatel is suspended for the first leg.

The third of Saturday's first legs pits the only team to win all their qualifying group matches – France – against the first side to book a play-off place, Italy having secured progress in Finland in June. Both nations were UEFA Women's EURO 2009 quarter-finalists, and while Italy have qualified for two World Cups in 1991 and 1999, Les Bleues have more recent experience, making their bow in 2003.

Sunday's first leg involves last year's European runners-up England taking on Switzerland who are aiming to reach a maiden senior women's final tournament. England were one of Europe's five contenders in China in 2007 along with winners Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but Switzerland held Hope Powell's side 2-2 in this year's Cyprus Cup and announced themselves as serious contenders with their 3-0 win in Russia in June.

In the second legs, Italy welcome France and Norway meet Ukraine on Wednesday, and the following evening Denmark take on Sweden and Switzerland play England. While the aggregate winners go straight to the final tournament, the remaining sides will continue to play off in October for a chance to meet the third-ranked CONCACAF nation for a further berth in Germany, with the path already drawn.

Last updated: 09/09/10 13.12CET

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