Wednesday 18 October 2017, 05:43

Favourites out to extend lead as Netherlands enter the fray

  • European champions begin their qualifying campaign

  • Denmark and Sweden vie for supremacy

  • Germany keen to consolidate their lead

The frenetic action in the footballing world shows no sign of letting up. Just days after many teams booked their coveted tickets to the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, the next round of European qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ is about to get underway.

Few surprises emerged from the first two matchdays on 14 and 19 September, as the favourites prevailed over minnows undoubtedly dreaming of a better start to their campaigns. Reigning European champions the Netherlands enter the fray on matchdays three and four, determined to challenge Norway for top spot in Group C.

Group situation: Group A: England, Wales (3 points each), Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (0 each) Group B: Switzerland (6), Belarus, Poland (3 each), Albania, Scotland (0 each) Group C: Norway (6), Republic of Ireland (3), Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Netherlands (0 each) Group D: Denmark, Sweden (3 each), Croatia, Ukraine (1 each), Hungary (0) Group E: Germany (6), Czech Republic, Iceland (3 each) Faroe Islands, Slovenia (0 each) Group F: Italy (6), Belgium (3), Moldova, Romania, Portugal (0 each) Group G: Austria (3) Serbia, Finland, Israel, Spain (0 each)

Top matches Sweden - Denmark, 20 October, 18.15 (local time) You only need look at the current FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Rankings to get an idea of how closely matched these two teams are. Sweden are currently placed 11th, just one place ahead of Denmark in 12th. The Scandinavian duo made a masterful start to Women’s World Cup qualification, each collecting three points, while both sides also began their qualifying campaigns with new coaches. Peter Gerhardsson succeeded Pia Sundhage as Sweden boss, while Soren Randa-Boldt now paces the touchline for the Danes after taking over from Nils Nielsen.

Portugal - Belgium, 24 October, 18.00 (local time) Having made their UEFA Women’s EURO debuts this year, both of these teams are now determined to reach their first Women’s World Cup. Having exited continental championship group stage with one win and two defeats each, both Portugal and Belgium will be keen to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The Red Flames took their first step towards France with a resounding 12-0 victory over Moldova and will look to consolidate their position against the Portuguese as they begin their own campaign.

Netherlands - Norway, 24 October, 19.00 (local time) With two wins under their belts already, Norway have not only made a remarkable start to qualification but have also sent out a statement of intent to their fiercest rivals in the battle for top spot. The Scandinavians now face the reigning European champions from the Netherlands - headlined by The Best nominee Lieke Martens - in their third qualifier. Meanwhile this fixture could prove to be a good omen for the Oranje Leeuwinnen, who beat Norway 1-0 in their opening match at the EUROs – and the rest is history…

Who will qualify? After the first qualifying round was completed between 6 and 11 April 2017, the remaining 35 teams were divided into seven groups of five. The winners of each group qualify directly for France 2019, while the four best-performing runners-up will contest play-off semi-finals and a final. The side that emerges victorious from these play-offs will become the eighth and final European representatives in addition to the hosts.