Germany's 9-0 defeat of Russia was the standout result while England, Finland, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland all won twice as Europe's 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying group stage began with Norway and France also making steady starts.
The seven group winners qualify and the four runners-up with the best records against the sides finishing first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups go into the play-offs next autumn for the one remaining UEFA berth in Canada. Europe were given eight places in the expanded 24-team finals.
Fresh from securing a sixth straight European title, two-time world champions Germany made light work of fellow Sweden contenders Russia with a sensational 9-0 win in Cottbus. The recently wed Célia Šašić (née Okoyino da Mbabi) converted an early penalty, Nadine Kessler and Dzsenifer Marozsán each struck twice and substitutes Fatmire Bajramaj and Melanie Leupolz also scored before Lena Goessling and Bianca Schmidt got in on the act.
The Republic of Ireland are the early leaders after beating Slovakia 2-0 and following that on Thursday with a 1-1 draw in Croatia, the hosts conceding a stoppage-time own goal to miss out on a first competitive victory in seven years. The same day Slovenia made a promising start, prevailing 3-1 in Slovakia.
Italy, beginning life without the retired Patrizia Panico, triumphed 5-0 in Estonia last Friday with two Melania Gabbiadini goals, but on Thursday it took until the 93rd minute for Cristiana Girelli to secure a 1-0 defeat of Romania – who had opened with a 9-1 success in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with the aid of Cosmina Duşa's four-timer and a Laura Rus hat-trick. Spain, who have a 31 October showdown with fellow UEFA Women's EURO 2013 quarter-finalists Italy, and the Czech Republic are both yet to play.
Only two games have taken place in this section, and both were won by Switzerland. First they beat Serbia 9-0 with four Ana Maria Crnogorčević goals before travelling to Iceland. The home side, now coached by Freyr Alexandersson after reaching the quarter-finals in Sweden, fell to a 2-0 defeat with goals nine minutes into each half from Ramona Bachmann and Lara Dickenmann for Switzerland. The Alpine nation surprisingly topped their 2011 Women's World Cup qualifying group before falling in the play-offs. On 26 October, UEFA Women's EURO 2013 semi-finalists Denmark – also under a new coach in ex-men's Under-18 boss Nils Nielsen – kick off in Serbia. Israel and Malta get under way the next day.
In their first match since succumbing to Germany in the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 semi-finals in Gothenburg, Sweden overcame Poland 2-0 in Malmo with second-half goals by Caroline Seger and adidas Golden Boot winner Lotta Schelin. Scotland, managed by Swedish technician Anna Signeul, are setting the pace, winning 7-2 in the Faroe Islands' first top-level qualifier and then 7-0 against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Poland recovered to fell the Faroes 6-0 while Northern Ireland start in Scotland on 26 October.
UEFA Women's EURO 2013 runners-up Norway, hoping to repeat their 1995 World Cup win, saw off Belgium 4-1 in Oslo on Wednesday with a Kristine Hegland hat-trick. Belgium had already secured a 2-0 win against debutants Albania, who on Thursday welcomed the Netherlands and were beaten 4-0 thanks in part to a Manon Melis treble; Portugal were 5-1 victors in Greece. The key October game brings together the Netherlands and Norway.
England, under caretaker boss Brent Hills following the end of Hope Powell's 15-year reign, had a week on their south coast and dismantled Belarus 6-0 in Bournemouth with a Karen Carney hat-trick and Turkey 8-0 in Portsmouth, Toni Duggan striking twice in the first two minutes and completing a treble before the break. Wales edged out Belarus 1-0, Helen Ward (formerly Lander) becoming the first player from her country to reach 30 goals nine minutes from the close of her 50th international. Montenegro, making their bow at this level, and second seeds Ukraine begin in October.
Also under new management, Philippe Bergeroo's France travelled to Kazakhstan and four first-half goals were enough for a 4-0 success. Kazakhstan had previously lost 2-0 to Finland, who then had an 86th-minute Emmi Alanen goal to thank for a 2-1 victory over Austria, themselves 4-0 weekend winners against Bulgaria. Hungary commence their campaign at home to Austria on 26 October.
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