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Leading lights still perfect in qualifying

Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and France – after a scare in Wales – kept up their winning start to qualifying, as did Russia and Italy to set up a fascinating Wednesday encounter.

Olga Petrova's corner flies in to open the scoring for Russia against Bosnia and Herzegovina
Olga Petrova's corner flies in to open the scoring for Russia against Bosnia and Herzegovina ©Mikhail Shapaev

Germany continued their comfortable start to UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying on a day when Russia and Italy set up a fascinating Wednesday encounter and Finland and Slovakia made promising starts to their campaigns.

Holders Germany have not dropped points in qualifying since 1999 and that run continued as they built on their opening 4-1 defeat of Switzerland with a 3-0 win in Romania courtesy of Lena Goessling, Melanie Behringer, from the penalty spot, and Fatmire Bajramaj, also hitting the woodwork twice. In the same section Turkey and Kazakhstan drew 0-0 while the two closest rivals to Germany, Spain and Switzerland, meet on Sunday.

Italy welcome the team they knocked out in the 2009 group stage, Russia, on Wednesday having both secured second wins. Italy stormed to a 9-0 Group 1 victory in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Daniela Sabatino scoring a hat-trick on her first start, replacing the injured Patrizia Panico.

Russia beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 4-1 but were worried when Lidija Kuliš equalised on 54 minutes. Olga Petrova had opened the scoring direct from a corner and within seconds of the equaliser struck again. Substitute Natalia Shlyapina scored twice late on, after which visiting striker Azra Hamzić filled in for injured goalkeeper Almina Hodžić. Poland defeated Greece 2-0 with two Anna Żelazko goals and are three points behind.

France had a scare in Wales when the FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finalists fell behind to a second-minute Jayne Ludlow goal. But Gaëtane Thiney levelled just before the break and although Nicola Davies saved a Sonia Bompastor penalty on the hour, Eugénie Le Sommer scored soon after and Thiney looped a shot in before Marie-Laure Delie clinched a 4-1 win that moves France on to nine points. The Republic of Ireland are still within three of France after defeating Israel 2-0, making their dominance count with 15 minutes left through Denise O'Sullivan, the 17-year-old's third goal in qualifying.

Finland, 2009 quarter-finalists on home soil, started Group 5 with a 6-0 defeat of neighbours Estonia, Linda Sällström scoring three. Also opening their bid in that section, Slovakia drew 0-0 in Ukraine, who qualified last time but were only able to pick up their game in the second half and did not make the breakthrough.

Iceland's perfect Group 3 start was ended with a scoreless draw against Belgium last month but Siggi Eyjólfsson's side avoided more dropped points as substitute Dóra María Lárusdóttir scored 22 minutes from time for a 1-0 win in Hungary, the goal created by Fanndís Fridriksdóttir's cross with Thóra Helgadóttir having made a vital first-half double save from Fanny Vágó and Lilla Sipos. Northern Ireland began their fixtures with a 1-0 victory in Bulgaria and welcome Iceland – who have ten points from four games – on Wednesday when Belgium play Norway.

The Netherlands also have a vital game on Thursday at home to England and go into it with a two-point lead over the Group 6 top seeds following a 3-0 win in Croatia, who held out well for the first 50 minutes. Serbia, who held England but lost in the Netherlands last month, secured a deserved 2-1 success in Slovenia.

Group 7 is starting to take shape after Denmark secured a second victory, beating Austria 3-0, Pernille Harder striking twice before the break and completing a hat-trick in added time. The Czech Republic, who have made the play-offs in the last couple of editions, are within two points of Denmark following a 1-0 defeat of Portugal inspired by goalscorer Petra Divišová.

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