Wednesday 25 October 2017, 07:42

Early stumbles on the road to France

  • Enhanced level of competition in European qualifying for France 2019

  • Germany see two-decade undefeated streak ended

  • European champs continue golden run

Europe’s qualifying charge for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ gathered momentum over the past week with two matchdays marked by upsets and tight competition. A rare blip from Germany was the headline news, while the Netherlands - aided by The Best winner Lieke Martens - proved popular among home supporters in their maiden qualifier. There was good news too for Spain as their campaign kicked off, while things are also looking positive for tournaments hosts France.

Standings Group 1: Wales (4 points), Bosnia and Herzegovina, England (3), Russia (1), Kazakhstan (0) Group 2: Scotland, Switzerland (6), Belarus, Poland (3), Albania (0) Group 3: Norway, Republic of Ireland (6), Netherlands (3), Northern Ireland, Slovakia (0) Group 4: Denmark, Sweden (6), Croatia (2), Hungary, Ukraine (1) Group 5: Germany (9), Czech Republic, Iceland (7) Faroe Islands, Slovenia (0) Group 6: Belgium, Italy (9), Moldova, Romania, Portugal (0) Group 7: Austria, Finland, Serbia, Spain (3), Israel (0)

The headline matches The Netherlands 1-0 Norway Much of the focus was on the Netherlands where the newly-crowned European champions took to the field less than 24 hours after forward Lieke Martens and coach Sarina Wiegman collected the major female awards at The Best FIFA Football Awards™. The celebration continued in Groningen, though it took until injury time before the Oranje Leeuwinnen finally broke though as Vivianne Miedema scored the only goal for a crucial win against Norway.

There was further cause for celebration with a crowd of 22,000 in attendance for the home team’s France 2019 opener, contrasting with a 2,000-strong crowd for a qualifier six years ago. Republic of Ireland have also started Group 3 promisingly and have a perfect record after two matches thanks to a 2-0 win in Slovakia.

Germany 2-3 Iceland The feelgood factor created by Iceland following their recent FIFA World Cup™ qualification clearly flowed through to the nation’s female side last Friday. Iceland did the seemingly impossible by winning 3-2 in Germany to end an incredible two-decade unbeaten streak by the two-time world champions. A double from USA-based midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir provides Iceland with a real chance of edging Germany out of top spot, although they undid some of that good work on Tuesday by being held to a 1-1 draw away to Czech Republic. Germany, meanwhile, bounced back with the help of four goals from Hasret Kayikci for an 11-0 rout of Faroe Islands to head Group 5, albeit having played a match more than Iceland.

Portugal 0-1 Belgium It has already been an historic year for Belgium following their long-awaited UEFA Women’s EURO debut. Now, though the challenge is to maintain the momentum and they have certainly started brightly in their push to qualify for a first Women’s World Cup. A lone strike early in the second half from defender Tine De Caigny was enough to see off an ambitious Portugal, as Red Flames’ captain Aline Zeler celebrated 100 caps. While Belgium boast a perfect record after three matches, so too do Italy following their comfortable 3-0 win over Romania leaving Group 6 as a two-horse race.

Hosts continue to build France continued their preparations with a one-sided 8-0 win over Ghana where Amandine Henry debuted as captain. The 2019 hosts will have another chance to test themselves with a glamour match-up against Sweden next month.

The stat 63 – The number of matches over a period of 19 years since Germany last lost a Women's World Cup or EURO qualifier (June 1998 v Norway).