UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ is now little more than a year away and the qualifying picture will clear still further after nine games on Wednesday and Thursday.
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England's 6-1 win in Belarus earlier this month extended their lead to three points. That was because Spain defeated the Czech Republic 4-1 to move two points ahead of their rivals in second place, with all the top three having two games left. The next is Spain's Wednesday trip to bottom side Northern Ireland and in June the Czech Republic face Belarus. But all is likely to be decided by England's trips to the Czech Republic on 28 September and Spain four days later; two away draws would ensure qualification for Hope Powell's side but even the team that finishes third looks likely to earn a play-off berth.
Sweden have five wins from as many games and a sixth at the Republic of Ireland on 25 June would confirm qualification. Italy are level with Sweden after Saturday's 6-1 win in Romania but have one game left to the leaders' three and an inferior head-to-head record. Ireland, with two matches against Sweden remaining, are three points adrift. Romania and Hungary meet on Wednesday with the winners to clinch fourth place.
France beat Serbia 2-0 earlier this month and with one game left are nine points clear of Iceland – who have four fixtures outstanding. Should Iceland win in Serbia on Wednesday and then defeat Slovenia and Greece in Reykjavik in June, they will only require a draw in France on 27 September in the group decider to qualify. The race for third place and a possible play-off is also close; Slovenia lead Greece and Serbia by three points having played a game more and fewer than their rivals respectively. Greece go to Slovenia on Wednesday and still have home games left against both that side and Serbia.
Six wins out of six, the most recent in Belgium on 7 May, have ensured that Germany will bid for a fifth straight title in Finland next summer and they can move eleven points clear with a win on Thursday against bottom side Wales, who will aim to upset the overwhelming odds and get off the mark in their final fixture. Belgium and Switzerland are level on ten points, two ahead of the Netherlands, though Belgium only have one game left to their rivals' two. The Netherlands may be trailing but home wins against Switzerland on 30 August and Belgium on 27 September would give them second place. Belgium would look to the play-offs if they win that match as Switzerland, who have an inferior head-to-head record, end their fixtures against Germany.
Two perfect records are on the line on Wednesday; Denmark, with five wins, play Slovakia while Ukraine, having played a game fewer, are in Scotland before the top two meet for the first time in Chernigov on 22 June. Scotland, five points adrift of second, have a hard task catching the leading pair with only two games left but a win against Ukraine and home draw with Slovakia on 28 September should leave them as one of the third-placed teams in the play-offs. Slovakia are one point behind in fourth but their previous results mean they could need to win in both Denmark and Scotland to put themselves in the play-off reckoning.
Norway have five wins in as many games and are six points ahead of Russia, who have a match in hand. That fixture, under new coach Igor Shalimov, is at home to Israel on Thursday, and Russia know if they do not drop any more points they will go into their 2 October finale against Norway still in contention, though potentially needing a four-goal win as they lost 3-0 in Stavanger last October. Poland are two points behind Russia, having played one more game, and will close in on a top-three finish if they win against Austria on Wednesday.