Europe's leading nations are preparing for the resumption of the qualifying programme for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup by featuring in some high-profile friendly internationals.
World and European champions Germany get the action under way when they meet 2007 finals hosts, China, in Homburg on Wednesday. The Chinese drew 0-0 with the Netherlands on Thursday, after which the Dutch flew to Canada for games in Vancouver on Wednesday and Victoria on Saturday. Vera Pauw's side return to competitive action against Hungary on 25 March, a day before Group 5 leaders England play France. To prepare for that match in Blackburn, Hope Powell's team will take on Iceland in Norwich on 9 March. Italy play Scotland the previous day in Isernia and also meet Japan on 12 March in Venafro.
Leaders in action
The leaders of the four other qualifying pools - Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany - will all compete in the annual Algarve Cup from 9-15 March in southern Portugal. The Norwegians, Swedes and Germans line up in Group A along with UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ semi-finalists Finland, while the Danes and French face the might of holders the United States and Canada in Group B.
A minor pool containing hosts Portugal, Republic of Ireland and Mexico will also be played. The tournament will feature four matchdays - 9, 11, 13 and 15 March - with five games taking place a day. The winners of Groups A and B will meet in the final at the Estádio Algarve; the runners-up will vie for the bronze medal, with other matches for fifth, seventh and ninth places.
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