France and Italy maintained perfect records while resurgent Germany defeated Spain 5-0 and there were important wins for England, Norway, Finland and the Czech Republic.
Article top media content
Germany underlined their return to form with a 5-0 win against Spain as France and Italy maintained perfect records in the first full set of UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifiers this year.
Spain had become the first team in 12 years to take qualifying points off Germany with a 2-2 home Group 2 draw in November, but since then the reigning champions have been in free-scoring form and continued that run in Mannheim to go three points clear. Célia Okoyino da Mbabi made it ten strikes in three appearances as she netted four times to become qualifying top scorer on nine goals. Alexandra Popp managed the other to delight a 11,517 crowd.
Elsewhere in Group 2, Romania are within a point of Spain having played a game more after defeating Kazakhstan 3-0, Anne Marie Bănuță with two fine goals, while Switzerland are three further back, but with a match in hand on the top pair following a 5-0 victory against Turkey, Sandy Maendly setting the tone with two early goals. On Thursday Switzerland welcome Germany and Spain play Kazakhstan.
France have now won all five of their Group 4 games, going nine points clear of the Republic of Ireland with a 2-0 defeat of Scotland, but not for the first time Les Bleues were made to work. They finally beat Gemma Fay when Scotland defender Ifeoma Dieke turned Gaëtane Thiney's shot into her own net on 64 minutes and soon after Wendie Renard headed a second. It was Scotland's first defeat in the group but they can move from fourth to second by beating Ireland on Thursday, a day after France welcome Wales.
Also yet to drop a point are Italy, their 4-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina their sixth in Group 1, Patrizia Panico scoring twice with the Azzurre never looking like conceding their first goal in qualifying. Russia, who play Italy on Wednesday, are six points back with a game in hand following their 8-0 defeat of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Olesya Mashina and Elena Morozova each managing deserved hat-tricks in a game of long-range goals. Poland are now two points adrift of Russia following a 1-1 draw in Greece, Agnieszka Winczo hitting the post with nine minutes left.
Finland have the only remaining unbeaten record in Group 5 after substitute Leena Puranen's cross was headed into her own goal by Eva Kolenová deep in added time to give the visitors a 1-0 win in Slovakia, who had begun brightly but were clinging on before conceding. With a game in hand, Finland are level with Slovakia and Belarus on seven points, three ahead of Ukraine, and today's opponents are rematched in Vantaa on Thursday.
The last two EURO runners-up, England and Norway, both secured useful away wins to close the gaps on their group leaders. England won 6-0 in Croatia, with Rachel Unitt scoring on her 100th appearance, and are now two behind the Netherlands, whom they host in June.
Norway took 70 minutes to break the deadlock in Bulgaria, in a game watched by Hristo Stoichkov. But Gry Tofte Ims did score and then substitute Hege Hansen struck twice in added time for a 3-0 win that moves them above Northern Ireland into third and within four points of leaders Iceland, who visit second-placed Belgium on Wednesday when Norway go to Hungary.
In Group 7, the unbeaten Czech Republic won 5-2 in Portugal with an Irena Martínková hat-trick in a dominant display to move within two points of leaders Denmark, visitors to Prague on Wednesday.