A massive few days on the international stage was undoubtedly highlighted by Netherlands securing the second last ticket on offer to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Elsewhere, Canada 2015 participants continue to jostle for form and bragging rights with France, Norway and the hosts all enjoying morale-boosts.
*Dutch claim long-awaited prize *Verona was the unlikely venue to earn a place in the history annals of Netherlands women’s football as the *Oranje Leeuwinnen *achieved a landmark high by qualifying for the Women’s World Cup for the first time. The Netherlands did it the hard way by surviving a quartet of teams vying for one additional European ticket to Canada 2015. With Scotland and Ukraine out of the picture, it seemed Italy had the inside running heading into the final 90 minutes of a marathon UEFA campaign. The *Azzurre *secured a 1-1 draw in The Hague last weekend, but the home side were immediately on the back foot in Veneto. Prolific teenage striker Vivianne Miedema grabbed a first-half double to have the Netherlands well on their way, however a Stephanie van der Gragt own goal set up a nerve-wracking second half before the Dutch eventually clung on.
"The team has made history, not me,” said Netherlands coach Roger Reijners. “We have achieved a number of milestones since 2009. There has been so much progression. After the last European Championship (2013) we clearly discussed what we wanted and what we needed to improve. And you see that we really have taken steps since the beginning of this year.” While the Dutch celebrated, the heart-breaking defeat leaves Italy without an appearance at the Women’s World Cup since 1999. “The heart wanted to bring it home but that was not enough,” said Italy coach Antonio Cabrini. “We faced a well organised team that plays good football, we have done everything possible, but we must acknowledge that the Netherlands were superior.” The final berth to Canada 2015 will be determined next week when Trinidad & Tobago face Ecuador in the return leg of the intercontinental play-off.
*Tight margins for Canada, Sweden *2015 Women’s World Cup hosts Canada continued their tough series of warm-up matches for next year’s event with two outings against traditional European power Sweden. The Canadians turned in a strong performance on Monday to secure a 1-0 win courtesy of a Jonelle Filigno strike just before half-time. Sweden looked set to reverse the scoreline on Wednesday thanks to Linda Sembrant’s goal just after the interval, but the nation’s leading scorer Christine Sinclair equalised to ensure the spoils were shared.
*Boosts for France, Norway *
France and Norway both enjoyed morale-boosts in the final game before learning their opponents for Canada 2015. Goals in each half from Eugenie Le Sommer and Kenza Dali in Lyon saw Les Bleues see off Brazil, after the pair had played out a scoreless draw in their last meeting in June. It ends a strong period for France who defeated European champions Germany by the same scoreline a month ago. Meanwhile, Norway narrowly got the better of New Zealand in their two-match series. Two goals in the final ten minutes from sisters Andrine and Ada Hegerberg got Norway over the line in Stavanger, while the home side rescued a draw in the opener thanks to Isabell Herlovsen’s late goal.