The last FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers of 2009 were played this week with Spain and England made to work hard to maintain their pefect records, Finland coach Michael Käld bowing out on a high and Belarus taking a point off the Netherlands. With only the group winners progressing to the play-offs next summer for a chance to join hosts Germany in the finals, uefa.com reviews the latest games. Click on the individual group headings for full standings and results.
Goals from Gaëtane Thiney and Camille Abily gave France a 2-0 victory in Serbia, a fourth straight win and a three-point lead over Iceland in the only six-team group. Northern Ireland are six points behind Iceland with two games in hand. On 27 March, France play Northern Ireland, Iceland visit Serbia and two of the three winless sides, Croatia and Estonia, are matched. Four days later France visit Northern Ireland, Iceland are in Croatia and Serbia host Estonia.
In the only November game, UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ semi-finalists the Netherlands were held 1-1 by improving Belarus, allowing Norway to end the year two points clear of both teams, with the Oranje having played three matches to their rivals' two. Slovakia are a point further back. Norway, who also reached the last four in Finland, have already beaten the Dutch, and resume their campaign at home to point-less FYR Macedonia on 27 March, when the Netherlands face Slovakia. Three days later Norway visit Belarus and on 1 April, Slovakia take on the Netherlands at home.
The top two were not in action in November, with Denmark having seven points from three games and Scotland having two wins out of two. Greece are also on six points, from four games, after beating bottom side Georgia 4-0. On 27 March, Denmark host Bulgaria and Scotland visit Georgia and five days later it is Denmark's turn to go to Georgia and Scotland welcome Bulgaria, with the current top two meeting on 24 June and 25 August.
This group is shaping up to be very close indeed. Poland, who have already beaten UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifiers Ukraine but lost in Hungary, were not in action this month yet remain top with nine points from four games. Hungary drew 1-1 at home with Ukraine after Zsanett Jakabfi's opener was cancelled out by Tetyana Chorna, and are within a point of Poland. Ukraine are four points further back with a game in hand, as are Romania. Ukraine play Hungary in a crucial 27 March fixture, when Romania visit Bosnia-Herzegovina. Four days later Poland go to Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina are in Hungary.
In their home November fixtures against the top two, Turkey lost 5-0 to Spain, all the goals coming after the break, and went down 3-0 to UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ runners-up England having held them at bay for 77 minutes. Spain and England both have perfect records from four and two games respectively and are matched on 1 April. Seven days before that England play Austria and on 27 March, Malta meet Turkey with both sides looking for a first point in major competition. Adriana's six-minute hat-trick for Spain against Turkey took her qualifying tally to nine, the best in Europe.
Russia moved three points clear of the teams they beat in their first two fixtures, Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland, with a 6-1 win in Israel on 17 November which prolonged their perfect start. Ireland, who have played a game more than the top two, visit Israel on Sunday 21 March. The following weekend Switzerland face Israel and Russia go to Kazakhstan. Then on 31 March, Ireland play Switzerland.
This month Portugal got off the mark with a 4-0 win away at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ play-off contenders Slovenia, and then both Finland – in their last game under Käld – and Italy beat Armenia 7-0. Laura Österberg Kalmari scored a hat-trick in Helsinki. Italy and Finland both have 12 points from four games, with the Azzurre having 25 unanswered goals, ten more than their rivals. On 31 March, Finland go to Italy, who visit Portugal four days earlier, when Slovenia play Armenia.
Belgium drew 0-0 in Azerbaijan but then won 2-1 in the Czech Republic to go within two points of leaders Sweden. However, Sweden have won all three of their games while Belgium have played five. Azerbaijan, on their debut top-level campaign, now have four points from three games and are one ahead of Wales and the Czech Republic. In the next set of games, Azerbaijan play the Czech Republic before Wales visit Belgium and then welcome Sweden.
For a full list of goalscorers so far, click here.
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