FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying is around its halfway point and some important games were played over the last week with Italy and Finland giving up their perfect records in a Group 7 draw and England securing a potentially decisive win against Spain. UEFA.com reviews the first results of 2010, with only the eight group winners progressing to September's play-offs as they aim to join hosts Germany in next year's finals.
The section remains a straight duel between France and Iceland, both of whom recorded two wins apiece. France, three points ahead having beaten Iceland in October, won 6-0 at home against Northern Ireland then defeated the same opponents 4-0 in Belfast. Iceland triumphed 2-0 in Serbia then 3-0 in Croatia to stay in contention for when France visit in August, though they return to action on 19 June against Northern Ireland a day before France play Croatia. Elsewhere in the sole six-team group, Estonia got off the mark with a 3-0 win in Croatia.
Norway made it four wins out of four, with 23 unanswered goals, as they beat FYR Macedonia 14-0 – Isabell Herlovsen scoring six, a national record – and won 5-0 in Belarus. The Netherlands are still within two points, having played a game more, after Vera Pauw's last games in charge produced two victories against Slovakia, 2-0 at home and 1-0 away. Annemieke Kiesel-Griffioen scored in added time of her 150th appearance and the coach's swansong for the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 semi-finalists. They go to third-placed Belarus on 28 April before the pivotal 19 June visit of Norway.
Denmark ended 2009 with a surprise draw in Bulgaria but resumed their campaign with a 9-0 home win against the same opponents and then triumphed 7-0 in Georgia. They have now scored 37 goals without reply from five qualifiers, six of them coming this week from Johanna Rasmussen. However, a point behind with a game in hand are Scotland, who made it four wins from four by beating Georgia 3-1 away and defeating Bulgaria 8-1 thanks to four Julie Fleeting goals. Scotland go to Bulgaria and Denmark play Greece on 19 June, five days before the leading pair go head to head.
Romania brought themselves into contention with a 5-0 win in Bosnia-Herzegovina only then to lose 4-1 at home to leaders Poland, for whom Agnieszka Winczo scored a hat-trick. Hungary beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-0 and are a point behind Poland; top seeds Ukraine are fourth, eight adrift of first place but with two games in hand. Ukraine can close the gap on 21 April at home to Hungary, who are Poland's next visitors on 19 June.
Neither Spain nor England had dropped a point when they met at Millwall on Thursday; Spain with four wins and England three, including last week's 3-0 defeat of Austria. England, who pipped Spain in EURO qualifying, repeated the trick courtesy of a 1-0 victory secured by Katie Chapman and are now level with Spain and have a game in hand. Spain can restore their lead next Thursday at home to Turkey; England go to Malta on 20 May and visit Spain on 19 June knowing two more wins would clinch first place.
Russia remain in control of the group, a 6-0 win in Kazakhstan their fourth straight victory. Switzerland are now clearly established as their challengers; after beating Israel 6-0 they won 2-1 in the Republic of Ireland, moving three points clear of the third-placed side and level with Russia, having played a game more. However, having already lost at home to Russia, Switzerland cannot afford another defeat when they visit the leaders on 19 June.
Like in Group 5, two teams with perfect records met this week, Italy having five wins − including a 3-1 weekend success in Portugal − to visitors Finland's four. New Finland coach Andrée Jeglertz had a superb start to his first competitive game, Heini Tiilikainen scoring on four minutes in Ascoli but Melania Gabbiadini equalising soon after to secure a 1-1 draw. Both have home games on 19 June – Italy against Slovenia and Finland versus Portugal – before the top two are rematched four days later in the Azzurre's last fixture. Victory either way will probably be decisive with ties broken on head-to-head record before overall goal difference.
Sweden took 69 minutes to break the deadlock in Wales before going on to win 4-0 and move on to 12 points from four games. The Czech Republic are up to second, three points behind having played a game more, after winning 5-0 in Azerbaijan and 3-0 in Belgium with Petra Divišová's hat-trick. Belgium, perhaps missing Femke Maes after international retirement, had already lost a dramatic game 3-2 at home to Wales. A win for Sweden at home to the Czech Republic on 19 June would seal first place provided bottom-placed Azerbaijan do not triumph in Belgium the same day.