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Women's World Cup qualifying: how it works

As the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying group stage kicks off, we explain how Europe's eight berths alongside hosts France will be decided with tight ties in prospect.

European champions the Netherlands and Norway are in the same group
European champions the Netherlands and Norway are in the same group ©Getty Images

The FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying group stage kicks off on Thursday and we explain how Europe's eight berths alongside hosts France in summer 2019 will be decided over the next year.

• Matches will be played home and away until 4 September 2018.

• The seven group winners will qualify to join France in the finals.

• The four runners-up with the best records against the sides first, third and fourth in their groups will advance to the play-offs, which will consist of two rounds of two-legged knockout ties in October and November 2018 to decide Europe's last qualifier.

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan

• UEFA Women's EURO 2017 semi-finalists England are aiming to qualify for their fourth straight World Cup, having beaten Germany to bronze in 2005. Russia last qualified in 2003.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania

• Switzerland qualified for the first time in 2015; both they and Scotland played at UEFA Women's EURO 2017.

Women’s EURO 2017: Watch all 68 goals now!

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland

• Newly-crowned European champions the Netherlands take on the team they beat in the opening match of the 2017 finals, Norway, who have never failed to qualify for a World Cup. The Republic of Ireland are now coached by Colin Bell, who led FFC Frankfurt to glory in the 2015 UEFA Women's Champions League.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia

• Denmark, fresh from reaching their first UEFA Women's EURO final, are under caretaker coach Søren Randa-Boldt after Nils Nielsen stood down last month. They face a Sweden side also under new management in Peter Gerhardsson. Olympic silver medallists Sweden have, like Norway, never failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands

• Their 22-year reign as European champions now over, Olympic gold medallists Germany start their bid to win a third World Cup, having like Norway and Sweden reached all seven previous final tournaments. None of their opponents have ever qualified before.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova

• Italy have not reached a World Cup since 1999 and under coach Milena Bertolini, newly appointed after a successful spell at Brescia, take on two teams that impressed on their UEFA Women's EURO finals debuts, Belgium and Portugal – the latter having beaten Romania in the play-offs to qualify.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel

• Surprise UEFA Women's EURO semi-finalists Austria knocked out Spain on penalties in the last eight of this summer's competition. Finland, who missed out on the finals in the Netherlands, are now coached by Anna Signeul, who was in charge of Scotland for 12 years.

The final will be played at Stade de Lyon
The final will be played at Stade de Lyon©Getty Images

Road to France
Qualifying group stage: 11 September 2017–4 September 2018
Play-off draw: tbc September 2018, Nyon
Play-off semi-finals: 1–9 October 2018
Play-off final: 5–13 November 2018
Finals draw: late 2018, France
Finals: 7 June–7 July 2019, France

Continental allocations
AFC: 5
CAF: 3
CONCACAF: 3 + 1 in play-off v CONMEBOL third place
CONMEBOL: 2 + 1 in play-off v CONCACAF fourth place
OFC: 1
UEFA: 8 + hosts France

Roll of honour: finals
2015: United States 5-2 Japan; Vancouver, Canada
2011: Japan 2-2 United States (aet, 3-1 pens); Frankfurt, Germany
2007: Germany 2-0 Brazil; Shanghai, China
2003: Germany 2-1 Sweden (aet, golden goal); Carson, United States
1999: United States 0-0 China (aet, 5-4 pens); Pasadena, United States
1995: Norway 2-0 Germany; Stockholm, Sweden
1991: United States 2-1 Norway; Guangzhou, China