Albania, Malta, the Faroe Islands and Montenegro secured top-two finishes on the final day of 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup preliminary round mini-tournament action to earn slots in the qualifying group stage.
The four successful teams join the 38 highest-ranked nations in the qualifying group stage draw from 14.00CET next Tuesday, streamed live on UEFA.com. Matches will be played home and away between this and next September in pursuit of Europe's eight finals places in Canada in summer 2015. UEFA.com rounds up today's action in Malta and Lithuania.
Malta and Albania started the day with a three-point advantage over respective opponents Latvia and Luxembourg. In the early game at Ta' Qali, Albania needed only a point against Luxembourg to advance in their first women's football campaign. They took the lead through Suada Jashiri, only for Sophie Maurer to level on the stroke of half-time. However, there would be no reply to Furtuna Velaj's 69th-minute goal, and Albania are still unbeaten after seven senior internationals, all but one of those wins.
Therefore Latvia knew they could pip hosts and fellow World Cup debutants Malta with a victory, but that never looked like materialising as they succumbed 2-0. A Dorianne Theuma free-kick put Malta ahead on the cusp of half-time, an advantage which was increased late on when Rachel Cuschieri finished off a solo run into the area. "This is history written for Maltese football," coach Pierre Brincat, whose side duly topped the section, told UEFA.com. "I am so happy for my team because the players worked hard to achieve their objective."
With hosts Lithuania already eliminated, Georgia had to win the day's opening fixture against the Faroe Islands to stop both their opponents and Montenegro advancing even before the concluding game in Vilnius could take place. Heidi Sevdal had the Faroes in front on 38 minutes, yet Lela Chichinadze equalised early in the second half. However, with 17 minutes to go, Sevdal secured a 2-1 success which sent the Faroes through as table toppers. Indeed, of the six Faroese goals in this mini-tournament, she had scored four and produced assists for the other two.
That result meant that not only had the Faroe Islands got through a round of national-team competition for the first time – at any level – but that Montenegro too moved forward on their senior debut. So the pressure was off when they faced Lithuania, who at least claimed their first point of the campaign, Sonata Vanagaitė cancelling out Marija Vukčević's 60th-minute Montenegrin opener with an added-time strike.