Netherlands remain in charge at the top of Group A, standing nine points clear of second placed Slovenia after the latest round of matches over the past ten days.
The Dutch returned from Moscow on 18th September from a potentially tricky game against Russia with a 1-0 win thanks to Jill Roord – in red hot scoring form at present – who struck after a quarter of an hour.
Elsewhere, Slovenia kept up their pursuit of a play-off spot with a 3-1 win at home to Turkey, who remain bottom. Gulbin Hiz gave the Turks a shock early lead, but Mateja Zver’s 28th minute penalty levelled the scores before goals from Lara Prasnikar and Spela Kolbl turned things around. Also still winless in the group are Estonia after they succumbed to a 2-0 loss in Kosovo with Kaltrina Biqkaj scoring both goals.
On 22nd September, Russia jumped into second spot on goal difference from Slovenia with a 3-0 win over Estonia in a match played in Latvia. Darya Yakovleva, Natalya Mashina and Nelli Vitalyevna Korovkina weighed in with the goals. The Russians have a game in hand on third placed Slovenia in the race for the play-off spot.
Group B is now a two-way battle for the automatic qualification and the play-off spots. Leaders Italy’s game against Israel on 17th September was postponed with no new date available as yet. On the same night, second placed Denmark gained a hugely important 4-0 win in Zenica against third placed Bosnia & Herzegovina. Nadia Nadim, Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen, Rikke Laentver Sevecke and Nanna Christiansen were on the mark.
Five days later Italy effectively killed off Bosniz Herzegovina’s hopes of second place with a straightforward 5-0 win in Zenica. Cristiana Girelli’s hat-trick and goals from Aurora Galli and Elena Linari sealed the important win. Denmark went top on goal difference with a comprehensive 8-0 win in Malta. Two goals from Nadia Nadim and Sanne Troelsgaard set the Danes on the way with Stine Larsen, Pernille Harder, Sofie Junge Pedersen and Signe Kalesoe Bruun grabbing one apiece. Who wins the group and who goes into the play-offs will be decided by the home and away battles between the Danes and Italians in the coming months.
On 18th September, Northern Ireland kept alive their hopes of the play-off spot in Group C with a 6-0 win in the Faroe Islands. Two goals from Simone Magill and Lauren Wade plus one apiece from Rachel Furness and Kirsty McGuinness sealed the win. The big showdown in the group on 22nd September in Oslo between the top two saw Norway just about hold off a determined Welsh outfit to record a 1-0 win.
Wales competed well in the early stages before Norway took the lead after an unfortunate goalkeeping error from Laura O’Sullivan. From a corner, Caroline Graham Hansen fed Guru Reiten on the edge of the box. The Chelsea star curled an effort from the edge of the box which O’Sullivan attempted to punch, but missed the ball and it flew over the top of her into the net.
Wales created chances to gain a famous point, but the home side gained the three points. Belarus joined Northern Ireland in the hunt to overtake Wales in second after a 2-0 win in the Faroe Islands. Anastasiya Shlapakova and Karina Olkhovik were on the scoresheet.
Norway are now virtually guaranteed to gain the automatic qualification spot thanks to their seven point cushion. However the race for the play-off berth is hotting up with second placed Wales just two points ahead of Northern Ireland and three ahead of fourth placed Belarus.
The arm-wrestle at the top of Group D continues with only two points separating first from third. Czech Republic held then group leaders Poland 0-0 in Chomutov on 18th September. Spain took advantage of the result to leap frog into top spot by two points after a 9–0 win demolition of Moldova in Chisinau the following night. Mariona Caldentey grabbed a hat-trick, Lucia Garcia Cordoba hit two, with Jennifer Hermoso, Alba Maria Redondo, Patricia Guijarro and an own goal from Anastasia Sivolobova completing the rout.
The Poles and the Czechs played their return match on 22nd September and it was the Czech Republic who gained a vital victory – 2-0 in Bielsko Biala. Andrea Staskova and Kamila Dubcova grabbed the goals.
There was no action in Group E. Qualifiers in this group resume on 22nd October.
In Group F, Sweden and Iceland remain comprehensively clear of the rest. On 17th September, the Swedes remained on top on goal difference after an 8-0 thrashing of Hungary in Gothenburg. Anna Anvegard’s hat-trick, two from Lina Hurtig plus one each from Chelsea’s Magda Eriksson, Amanda Ilestedt and Linda Sembrant earned the win. Iceland went one better by crushing Latvia 9-0 in Reyjkavik. The goals came courtesy of a Dagny Brynjarsdottir hat-trick, Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir (2) and Karlina Miksone (OG), Alexandre Johansdottir and Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir completed the rout.
Five days later the top two went head to head in Reykjavik. The Swedes took a 34th minute lead through Anna Elin Anvegard, but Elin Mette Jensen’s leveller for the Icelanders kept their dreams of top spot alive. Hungary gained their second win of the qualification period thanks to a 5-0 win over rock bottom Latvia. Dora Zeller and Lilla Turanyi got two apiece with Sara Tusztai scoring one.
France continued to haul in Austria at the top of Group G after a 2-0 win in Serbia on 18th September. Andela Frajtovic’s own goal and a strike from Amel Majri earned the three points. On 22nd September, they continued to up the pressure with a 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia in Skopje. Eugenie Le Sommer and Elisa de Almeida both grabbed braces with Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Marion Torrent and Viviane Asseyi completing the rout.
Austria kept their noses ahead in top spot with a 5-0 win in Kazakhstan. Barbara Dunst hit two goals with Verena Aschauer, Sarah Puntingam and Nicole Billa (penalty) also on target. The top two, France and Austria go head to head in the next set of group games in a month’s time.
Group H has taken some dramatic twists and turns over the past ten days. On 18th September after Switzerland were held 1-1 in Zapresic against Croatia which looked to put a major dent in their hopes of finishing top. Ivana Rudelic gave the Croats, who have only won one qualifier so far, an early lead. Ramona Bachmann rescued the Swiss from embarrassment with a 74th minute leveller, but hopes of automatic qualification now look difficult. This is due to leaders Belgium slamming six goals past Romania to move two points clear at the top of the table. Tessa Wullaert’s hat-trick, plus goals from Janice Cayman, Elena Dhont and Justine Vanhaevermaet won them the game. Laura Roxana Rus got a consolation strike for the Romanians.
Four days later Switzerland renewed their dreams of winning the group with a massively important 2-1 win over Belgium in Thun. Malin Gut and Alisha Lehmann put the home side 2-0 up. Tessa Wullaert got one goal back for the Belgians. The Swiss are now top by a point. The two teams face each other again in November on the final matchday of the group – and what a mouth-watering prospect that will be. Romania won only their second game of the group after dispatching Croatia 4-1. Ivana Rudelic put the Croats ahead but they were swamped by goals from Iva Landeka, Maria Batea, Andrea Herczeg and Laura Roxana Rus.
Finally to Group I where Ukraine won their first qualifier at the fourth attempt with a 3-1 win away to rock bottom Montenegro on 18th September. Daryna Apanaschenko, Nadiia Kunina and Sladana Bulatovic’s own goal earned the success. Medina Desic was on target for Montenegro – their first goal in the qualifying campaign in their fifth match.
A day later the top two met in Essen and the Germans saw off Republic of Ireland 3-0. Marina Hegering, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Lea Schuller’s goals condemned the Irish to their first defeat in qualifying.
On 22nd September, Germany went five points clear at the top with a 3-0 win in Montenegro thanks to goals from Laura Freigang, Melanie Leupolz and Sydney Lohmann. Ukraine won their second qualifier on the bounce after brushing aside Greece 4-0. Nicole Kozlova grabbed two with Darya Kravets and Daryna Apanaschenko also on target.