A massive weekend of international women’s football included FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ qualifiers in South America and Europe; the latter seeing four more teams book passage to next year’s showpiece. Elsewhere the build-up to qualifiers in CONCACAF and CAF has continued with world No1 USA in rare form, but there was less fortune for Africa hopefuls Ghana.
*Euro foursome finally collect reward
*There were celebrations in Germany, Norway, France and – for the first time – Spain after a long Canada 2015 campaign ended successfully. The quartet all secured top spot in their respective groups on the penultimate matchday to join Switzerland and England as European participants in the 24-nation field.
*Germany *were rarely troubled in easing to a 4-1 win over second-placed Russia in Moscow with Celia Sasic nabbing a hat-trick. The win continued a phenomenal campaign for the 2011 Women’s World Cup hosts who have a perfect record after nine matches, scoring 60 goals in the process.
Isabell Herlovsen matched Sasic’s achievement with her treble lifting *Norway *to a one-sided 11-0 win over Albania. The 1995 world champions have now qualified for every Women’s World Cup held to date, and qualification for Canada marks another milestone for veteran coach Even Pellerud. “I've been lucky enough to have taken part in a few final tournaments already,” he said. “But the feeling when you qualify is every bit as fantastic now as it ever was.”
*France *also finally confirmed their long-anticipated qualification with a 2-0 win in Finland finally shaking off the second-placed Nordic side. Like Germany, France enjoyed a faultless campaign racking up 51 goals in their nine successive wins. Yet *Les Bleues *coach Philippe Bergeroo remains focussed on the long-term goal, saying: "The first box is ticked. We now have now a full year to work.”
*Spain's *development in women’s youth football over recent years has paid handsome dividends with maiden qualification for the senior Women’s World Cup. A double from Natalia ensured a routine 2-0 win in Romania leaving second-placed Italy left to vie for a play-off berth.
One automatic berth remains up for grabs with 2011 Women’s World Cup semi-finalists *Sweden *still well placed. A 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina sets up an enthralling final-day showdown against second-placed Scotland on Wednesday with the Blagult *only needing to avoid defeat in Gothenburg to collect their qualification prize. *Scotland **will at least be hoping to line-up as one of the four best runners-up where a single play-off ticket to Canada 2015 remains up for grabs.
Copa America Femenina
Continental powerhouse Brazil have one foot in the Copa America Femenina last-four after easing to a 6-0 opening win over Bolivia on the back of doubles from Formiga and Andressa, and then following that up with a 4-1 win over Paraguay. Elsewhere there were plenty of erratic results over the opening matchdays. Both Venezuela and Argentina had a win and a loss to start their respective campaigns.
Ecuador have an early lead in Group A following two hard-fought 1-0 wins. 2011 Women’s World Cup participants Colombia, who have played a game less, opened brightly with a 4-0 win over Uruguay. In the other group Argentina are second behind Brazil after bouncing back from a 1-0 loss against Chile by overpowering Bolivia with six unanswered goals. The top two teams will qualify directly to the Women’s World Cup, and the third placed team will play-off against the fourth placed team from CONCACAF.
*USA hit ominous form *
Two-time world champions USA have laid down the gauntlet ahead of next month’s CONCACAF qualifiers for Canada 2015 by recording an astonishing 8-0 win over north American rivals Mexico. Alex Morgan scored two goals and assisted three others, while strike-partner Abby Wambach also recorded a brace. Yet it was USA goalkeeper Hope Solo who claimed a share of the headlines with her 72nd national team cleansheet which edged her clear of the previous mark held by Brianna Scurry. The two teams meet again on Thursday in Rochester in what will be the Stars and Stripes’ final outing before hosting the continental championship.
*Japan ease past Africans *
World and Asian champions Japan secured a comfortable 5-0 win over Ghana as the Africans made a rare visit to the Far East. Prolific Nadeshiko League goalscorer Megumi Takase nabbed two inside the opening 20 minutes with the hosts’ goals all coming prior to the half-time break in a one-sided contest. The match continues Ghana’s preparations for next month’s CAF African Women’s Championship where a top-three finish will secure a ticket to Canada 2015.