Norway and Sweden's new generation of female footballers showed their ability to keep up their nation's traditions in the game with comfortable wins to open Group 1.
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Norway and Sweden's new generation of female footballers showed their ability to keep up their nation's traditions in the game with comfortable wins to open UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship second qualifying round Group 1 in FYR Macedonia.
Neither Nordic nation reached the inaugural four-team finals last year but their Matchday 2 encounter on Friday could potentially book the winners' places in Nyon this time around after Norway started with a 9-2 defeat of the hosts and Sweden beat Ukraine 5-0. Norway would be through if they defeat Sweden and Ukraine fail to secure maximum points against FYR Macedonia; Sweden would qualify with a victory, so long as the hosts do not also win, otherwise Monday's closing games will prove decisive.
Haavi scores five
Emilie Haavi inspired Norway's win, responsible for all four first-half goals on three, 21, 27 and 37 minutes. Lisa-Marie Utland struck seconds after the interval, and after FYR Macedonia pulled one back, there were two from Lisa-Marie Utland followed by a Cathrine Dekkerhus effort, a fifth Haavi strike and a Siri Mork goal, prior to a second home consolation with 15 minutes left. Norway coach Tarjei Smågesjø said of Røa IL prospect Haavi: "She is very clever in the last third of the pitch, quick with or without the ball, and a steady finisher. She is an exciting player for the future."
Sweden's Ellinor Klang was only one goal short of matching Haavi's feat, scoring twice in the first 24 minutes against Ukraine and adding two more late on after an Elin Rubensson effort. Victorious coach Marie Bengtsson, whose side beat Norway 2-0 in August, said ahead of Friday's crucial fixture: "It will be tough and something completely different to today."
Finals taking shape
Last season's runners-up France have already booked their place in the finals in UEFA's Swiss hometown from 22-25 June, and a second team will definitely be decided on Friday as Spain take on the Czech Republic, who must win that game to pip their opponents in Group 2 in Belgium. The remaining mini-tournament, Group 3 in Hungary, starts on Thursday with the home side meeting a nation hoping to have a similar advantage in the finals, Switzerland, and holders Germany playing Russia.