Switzerland have put themselves in position to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup next month with a crucial win in this week's qualifiers while Germany, England, Norway, Sweden and France maintained perfect records. Elsewhere, Spain took a step closer to Canada and Russia gained an important victory in the Republic of Ireland.
UEFA.com rounds up the action; 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 the expanded 24-team finals.
Germany are on the verge of qualification after an eighth straight win, defeating Slovakia 9-1 with a hat-trick from Fatmire Alushi (formerly Bajramaj). Russia look on course for second spot after winning 3-1 in the Republic of Ireland with goals in the first 12 minutes from Ekaterina Sochneva and Ekaterina Pantyukhina, who also struck before half-time following a Fiona O'Sullivan effort.
Russia are five points ahead of Ireland but 12 adrift of Germany albeit with three games in hand – in Slovenia on 14 June and at home to Ireland five days later and Slovakia on 21 August. If Russia drop three points in those matches, Germany have qualified. Otherwise Germany need a point in Russia on 13 September or victory against Ireland four days hence.
Spain, following a 5-0 stroll in Estonia, remain six points clear of Italy, who prevailed 11-0 in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, including a Cristiana Girelli hat-trick and have a game in hand. The Czech Republic are still third but eight points behind Italy after being held 0-0 by Romania.
Italy's extra match is in the Czech Republic on 14 June, though ultimately they will have to finish ahead of Spain on points due to an inferior head-to-head record. Therefore, Spain will qualify if Italy lose or otherwise require only three more points to reach their first World Cup when they visit Romania on 13 September and the Czech Republic three days later.
Switzerland are on the verge of a first major qualification following a 3-0 success over Iceland, earned by Vanessa Bernauer, Vanessa Bürki and Lara Dickenman goals. That leaves Switzerland ten points above Iceland and Israel, who beat Malta 2-0, and one further ahead of Denmark, 3-1 victors against Serbia, though all those challengers have two games in hand.
To ensure a berth in Canada next summer, Switzerland need victory at home to Israel on 14 June and in Serbia five days later, with a 17 September trip to Malta as insurance. Qualification may even come on 15 June, if the Swiss have beaten Israel and Denmark then draw with Iceland, while a Danish win would mean, in that case, Switzerland merely required a point in Serbia. Also on 19 June, Denmark are in Israel and Iceland play Malta, who travel to Serbia four days earlier.
Sweden overcame Northern Ireland 3-0 thanks to Therese Sjögran, Carline Seger and Lina Nilsson and have five unanswered wins to Scotland's six. Those teams meet for the first time in the group in Motherwell on 14 June.
Still chasing pole position are Poland, 3-0 winners in the Faroe Islands and six points off second; they next go to Bosnia and Herzegovina on 19 June, when Scotland are in Northern Ireland.
Norway secured a sixth perfect win but were given a tough time in Tonsberg by fourth-ranking Portugal, prevailing 2-0. Elise Thorsnes struck early in the second half and substitute Isabell Herlovsen added her first international goal in 20 months in the 89th minute, set up by the outstanding Caroline Graham Hansen.
The Netherlands stay top, a point superior to Norway having played two games more, following a crucial 2-0 win in Belgium who are now six points shy of their neighbours and effectively out of contention. Norway can move into position when they play their two matches in hand next month at home to Greece and in Portugal.
England have six victories out of six and 33 unanswered goals following their crucial 4-0 defeat of previously unbeaten Ukraine, Eniola Aluko and Natasha Dowie both netting twice. Wales, 4-0 winners against Montenegro with a Jessica Fishlock treble, are still five points behind England but now six clear of Ukraine, who have two games in hand.
Trips on 14 June to Belarus, 2-1 losers at home to Turkey, and Ukraine five days later are now the key for England. Also on 14 June, Ukraine face Montenegro and Wales host Turkey before they visit Belarus.
France made it seven victories out of seven, thrashing Hungary 4-0 courtesy of Élodie Thomis, Camille Abily, Gaëtane Thiney – taking her competition-leading goal tally to 12 – and substitute Amel Majri, making her debut after being recommended to national coach Philippe Bergeroo by her Olympique Lyonnais manager Patrice Lair. "There are no words, I did not know where to go [when I scored], I ran everywhere," Majri said.
Finland, who also have a perfect record from their five games, use up those matches in hand in Austria on 14 June and at home to Bulgaria four days later, not meeting France until a decisive September double-header. Bulgaria themselves are three points adrift at the bottom after a 4-1 reverse in Kazakhstan.
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