Monday 06 June 2016, 13:53

Enthralling friendlies and new EURO contenders

Many of the world’s top leagues have been taking a break this week to allow UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 qualifiers and several high-quality friendlies to be played. The international break allowed several sides to demonstrate their rich vein of form ahead of this summer’s Olympic Women’s Football Tournament Rio 2016.

Switzerland book first-ever European ticket Switzerland became the third team to qualify for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 in the Netherlands after Germany and France, securing their place at the continental finals with their sixth win in six games. Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side will make their European debut next summer just two years after participating in their first FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Die Eidgenossinnen’s resounding 5-0 victory over Czech Republic means they cannot be toppled from the summit of Group 6 with two rounds of qualifying matches left to play. Switzerland’s impressive result came courtesy of braces from Martina Moser and Ana-Maria Cmogorcevic and an additional strike from Fabienne Humm.

“We dominated today’s game,” Voss-Tecklenburg told the Swiss Football Association website after the final whistle. “The girls deserve their success after months and years of hard work. Now we’re proud and looking forward to making our EURO debut. We’ve got a fantastic tournament ahead of us in summer 2017, one that we qualified for deservedly and in impressive style. Now we want to demonstrate the same professionalism and control in each of our last two qualifying matches against Georgia and Northern Ireland to make sure we complete a flawless campaign.”

Free-scoring Swedes hit form ahead of Olympics The Swedes remain on course to join the Swiss, Germans and French at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 after defeating Poland 4-0. It was the fifth successive qualifying victory for Pia Sundhage’s side who cemented their place at the top of Group 4 on 15 points, five points ahead of Denmark, who beat Slovakia by the same scoreline as their Scandinavian neighbours.

Meanwhile fellow Olympic participants France took a slightly less aggressive stance in Group 3 as Eugenie Le Sommer scored the only goal of the game in a narrow win over Greece.

England remain in hot pursuit of leaders Belgium in their quest for a place at the European finals, sending their Group 7 rivals a clear warning with a 7-0 dismantling of Serbia. Belgium defeated Estonia 5-0 this week to remain one point clear having played one more match than the Lionesses.

It is a similar story in Group 8, where Norway and Austria are locked in a head-to-head battle in first and second place respectively. The pair’s 2-2 draw means the Norwegians maintain their lead, while their game in hand gives them an additional edge over their Central European challengers.

Fascinating tussles between USA and Japan The reigning world champions and their 2011 counterparts contested two friendlies over the past few days, beginning with a goalscoring masterclass in front of a 18,572-strong crowd at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado that ended 3-3. Mana Iwabuchi and Yuki Ogimi gave the Nadeshiko a comfortable lead before Alex Morgan’s brace drew the Stars and Stripes level. Lindsey Horan’s 89th-minute strike put the home side ahead only for Kumi Yokoyama to equalise in stoppage time.

Bad weather forced the abandonment of the second encounter at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium after 76 minutes, with USA 2-0 up thanks to goals from Julie Johnston and Alex Morgan.

She came, she saw, she conquered! Marta dominated proceedings as Canada and Brazil met in Toronto to prepare for this summer’s Olympics. The five-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year found the target twice to set the seal on a 2-0 win for the South Americans ahead of a rematch at the TD Place Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa on Tuesday.

“We’re focusing on our next match in Ottawa,” said Canada coach John Herdman after the final whistle. “We have a big game there, so we have to dust ourselves off and put on another performance. We’ll go to Ottawa one-nil to Brazil, but we’ll get them there – I’m sure of that.”