Germany, Norway, France and – for the first time – Spain have confirmed their places in next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup, to be staged in Canada from 6 June to 5 July, following wins today.
Germany visited their only rivals for top spot in Group 1, Russia, and showed their class, with Célia Šašić registering a hat-trick in a 4-1 success in Moscow. Coach Silvie Neid said: "We knew the Russians were tough opponents – it's not easy to score against them – but my team did its job well today and we are happy to have qualified. We have a lot of strength in depth and we work well together. It makes me proud. Now we can travel home happy."
Norway's journey home will be no less pleasurable, Isabell Herlovsen having scored a treble in their 11-0 success in Albania, which ended Group 5 as a contest. "I've been lucky enough to have taken part in a few final tournaments already, but the feeling when you qualify is is every bit as fantastic now as it ever was," noted coach Even Pellerud. "We are confirmed as finals contenders in the world's No2 sport for women. That's phenomenal."
That feeling is a new one for Spain, with Natalia's double in a 2-0 win in Romania enough to give them first place in Group 2, and France are Canada-bound too following their 2-0 success in Finland, Louisa Necib and Gaëtane Thiney the scorers. "I'm very happy," said Les Bleues coach Philippe Bergeroo. "The first box is ticked. We now have now a full year to work. We'll stay grounded because there is a long way to go. We wanted to win here to avoid pressure in the final game."
Sweden, however, are not quite there yet, though it would take a significant home defeat against Scotland in their final Group 4 game, on 17 December, to prevent them winning the section.
Lotte Schelin scored twice in the Scandinavian side's 3-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina today, taking her tally to 71 international goals, one short of Hanna Ljungberg's record, which she has half an eye on matching against Scotland. "It would be fantastic [to break the record] on Wednesday, but our focus has to be on the match. Then hopefully I might break that record too," she explained.
England and Switzerland had already booked their places in the finals before today's games. The four runners-up with the best record against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups go into the play-offs for the remaining UEFA berth in Canada.
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