Women’s Euro 2021 Qualifying: October 2019 Group Stage Window Recap and Highlights

UEFA Women's Euro logo

Qualifying for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 continued this month, with no significant surprise results among the top teams.  That said, the October window was not without drama:

In Group A, the Netherlands needed a 78th minute goal to separate themselves from Slovenia.  Elsewhere, Kazakhstan held expected Group G winner France scoreless for over 55 minutes.  And, in Group B, minnow Malta kept Italy off the scoresheet for even longer, at almost 70 minutes.

But the match of the window was the Republic of Ireland’s 3:2 victory over Ukraine, which saw Ukraine equalize at 2:2 just fifteen minutes after Ireland took a 2-nil lead.  The tie did not last for long, as a deflected blocked shot led to a decisive own goal in favor of the home team.

Host England was also in action, playing two friendlies, losing to Brazil in Middlesbrough and defeating Portugal 1:0 on the road.  The victory against Portugal snapped a five-game winless streak that stretched back to the Lionesses semifinal loss to the United States in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Match details and statistics for each qualifying match are available on UEFA’s website.

Qualifying Format Summary: 

  • Nine groups of five or six teams
  • Standard mini-league round-robin format
  • All nine Group Winners qualify for the final tournament
  • The Top Three Runners-Up also qualify for the final tournament
  • To rank the nine Runners-Up, for Groups A and B, which have six teams, the results against the worst team in each of those groups are dropped
  • The remaining six Runners-Up are paired into home-and-home play-offs
  • The three winners of those play-offs qualify for the final tournament
  • Host England is auto-qualified

Previous Coverage:


GROUP A
Teams:  Estonia, Kosovo, Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Netherlands, (2) Russia {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Turkey 0, Estonia 0
Slovenia 2, Netherlands 4
(Kosovo-Russia was postponed)

Tuesday, October 8th
Turkey 1, Slovenia 6
Estonia 1, Kosovo 2
Netherlands 2, Russia 0

The Netherlands are now in control of the group, following their 2-nil home victory over Russia and an uneasy 2:4 away win over Slovenia.  In the earlier match of the window, Slovenia scored first against the Netherlands and then tied the match at 2:2, before two late goals by Sherida Spitse made the difference for the OranjeLeeuwinnen. Spitse’s first goal was a soft free kick into the box that was not redirected as it bounced into the goal.  Vivianne Miedema scored a goal against both Slovenia and Russia, while Daniëlle van de Donk scored the game-winner against Russia in her 100th senior international cap for the Netherlands.

Russia only played the one match this window, due to the Russian Football Union persuading UEFA that their away match scheduled for Friday against Kosovo should be postponed due to “security considerations.” (ProstInternational.com)  Meanwhile, Kosovo had a comeback win over Estonia, on two goals from 20-year-old Modesta Uka, giving them six points after three matches.

Slovenia-Netherlands Highlights:

Netherlands-Russia Highlights:

For those wondering why Miedema was crying after her goal, she recently lost her grandfather (The Northern Times).

What’s Next: In November, the Netherlands travel to Turkey then host Slovenia.  These are the last Group A matches scheduled until March 2020.   Russia has no scheduled qualifying matches until April 2020.


GROUP B
Teams:  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Georgia, Israel, Italy, Malta
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Italy, (2) Denmark (toss-up) {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Denmark 2, Bosnia and Herzegovina 0
Malta 0, Italy 2

Tuesday, October 8th
Italy 2, Bosnia and Herzegovina 0
Georgia 0, Denmark 2

Both Italy and Denmark remain neck-and-neck at the top of the group, after each team earned another full six points this window.  However, Italy’s scoring struggles continued, as they could only muster two goals against Malta in a match that was scoreless for over 68 minutes until Elisa Bartoli scored in the 69th minute.  Cristiana Girelli added a penalty kick goal in stoppage time (90’+2) against Malta. Against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy got off to a quick start, as Girelli scored the game-winner in the third minute. Manuela Giugliano added a second goal 25 minutes later for a respectable 2:0 win.

As it stands, Denmark (+15) has a sizeable net goal difference advantage of +9 over Italy (+6), although given that UEFA uses head-to-head results as the first tie-breaker, goal difference matters significantly less than in FIFA and CONCACAF competitions.

With both teams playing and defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina this window, Denmark and Italy are now each six points clear of B&H, giving the front-runners some breathing room.

What’s Next:  In November, Italy will host both Georgia and Malta, while Denmark will host Georgia.  The Danes do not have a friendly scheduled for this next window.  After November, both Italy and Denmark have no scheduled qualifiers until April 2020.


GROUP C
Teams:  Belarus, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Wales
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Norway, (2) Wales {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Belarus 1, Norway 7

Tuesday, October 8th
Belarus 0, Wales 1
Faroe Islands 0, Norway 13

During this window, Norway dominated both its opponents, Belarus and the Faroe Islands, by a combined score of 20:1.  Belarus’ lone goal against Norway gave them a 1:0 lead against the Norwegians for 18 minutes, but Isabell Herlovsen’s two goals in a span of five minutes (36′, 40′) gave Norway the lead for good in the first match.

Against the Faroe Islands, Herlovsen netted a hat trick, which gave her 67 senior international goals for Norway, making her the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Herlovsen surpassed the mark held by Marianne Pettersen (66 goals, active 1994-2003). (NFF write-up, in Norwegian)

After conceding a last-second equalizer against Northern Ireland, Wales needed a victory against Belarus to get back on track, which they got through a lone goal by Rachel Rowe after 81 minutes of scoreless action.  This was Rowe’s first international match after an almost year-long ACL recovery (WalesOnline.co.uk).

Belarus-Norway Highlights:

Belarus-Wales Highlights:

Herlovsen’s 67th International Goal:

What’s Next: The November window is a quiet one for Group C, with just two matches.  First, Norway hosts Northern Ireland, on Friday, November 8th.  Then, on Tuesday, Northern Ireland returns home to host Wales.  Both Norway and Wales have already played Northern Ireland, back in the first window, with Norway earning an 0:6 away win, while Wales conceded a last-second equalizer for a 2:2 draw.  After November, all the teams are off until the April 2020 window, which will see Norway hosting Wales.


GROUP D
Teams:  Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Moldova, Poland, Spain
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Spain, (2) Czech Republic or Poland (toss-up) {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Spain 4, Azerbaijan 0

Tuesday, October 8th
Czech Republic 1, Spain 5

The top-ranked team in the group, Spain, begun their qualification campaign with two solid wins, including a 1:5 away victory against one of their two main group antagonists, the Czech Republic. Spain’s current leading goalscorer in qualifying is 21-year-old Aitana Bonmati, who scored twice against Azerbaijan and netted a third goal against the Czech Republic.

Only three matches have been played so far in this group, as Poland has yet to begin their qualification campaign, while the two minnows in the group, Azerbaijan and Moldova have each only played one match.

Poland did play a friendly this window, hosting Brazil, who won 1:3. (highlights)

Spain-Azerbaijan Highlights:

Czech Republic – Spain Highlights:

What’s Next:  Poland plays their first qualification match of the cycle, hosting group leader Spain on Tuesday, November 12th.  The Czech Republic travel to Azerbaijan for what should be a relatively easy victory. After November, Spain and the Czech Republic are off until April 2020, while Poland has two qualifying matches scheduled for March.


GROUP E
Teams:  Albania, Cyprus, Finland, Portugal, Scotland
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Scotland, (2) Finland or Portugal (toss-up) {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Albania 0, Portugal 1

Tuesday, October 8th
Finland 8, Albania 1

Portugal struggled in their opening match of qualifying, though prospects looked bright after Jéssica Silva’s 16th minute goal against Albania.  However, Albania held Portugal scoreless for the rest of the match.

The victorious Portugal returned home for a friendly against England on Tuesday, which they lost 0:1 in a match where a draw was probably the fairer result.  (For highlights, see the bottom of this article.)

In the only other Group E match of the window, Finland once again defeated Albania, this time by a score of 8:1.  In September, Albania hosted Finland for each team’s first group qualifier, which Finland won 0:3.

Scotland was off for this window and elected not to play any friendlies.

What’s Next:  Scotland returns to action in November, traveling to Albania.  Meanwhile, Finland hosts Cyprus before traveling to Portugal for a key Pot 2 vs. Pot 3 match-up.  The top three teams are off until April 2020, when Portugal travels to Finland and then Scotland.


GROUP F
Teams:  Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Slovakia, Sweden
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Sweden, (2) Iceland) {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Latvia 1, Slovakia 2
Hungary 0, Sweden 5

Tuesday, October 8th
Sweden 7, Slovakia 0
Latvia 0, Iceland 6

After three group matches, both Sweden and Iceland remain perfect with three wins each. Sweden netted 12 goals this window, scored by 11 different players.  Only Stina Blackstenius, who scored a brace against Slovakia, had more than one goal this window. Against Slovakia, Kosovare Asllani scored the game-winner via an olimpico to the near post’s upper corner.

Iceland, who lost to France 0:4 in a friendly on Friday (highlights), earned a solid nil-6 win against Latvia.  Among the goalscorers for Iceland was Portland Thorns FC midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdóttir.

In their earlier match of the window, Slovakia came back after conceding a third-minute goal against Latvia to earn the Slovaks’ first win in the group.  However, Slovakia is six points behind the lead pair, Sweden and Iceland, due to a loss against each.

Hungary-Sweden Highlights

Sweden-Slovakia Highlights

What’s Next: Both Sweden and Iceland have no scheduled qualifiers until  April 2020. In November, Sweden travels to the United States to play the USWNT in Columbus, Ohio, on November 7th.  Iceland has no scheduled matches for the rest of the year.


GROUP G
Teams:  Austria, France, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Serbia
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) France, (2) Austria {no change}

Wednesday, October 2nd
North Macedonia 4, Kazakhstan 1

Saturday, October 5th
North Macedonia 0, Serbia 6

Tuesday, October 8th
Kazakhstan 0, France 3
Serbia 0, Austria 1

In their first qualifier of the cycle,  France struggled to break the scoreless deadlock for almost sixty minutes, after being denied several times by Kazakhstan’s veteran goalkeeper,  Oksana Zheleznyak, who had eight saves on the night.  France’s breakthrough came in the 58th minute, when Valérie Gauvin headed in a rebound of Wendy Renard’s header, which bounced off both the pitch and the crossbar, before Gauvin lightly headed the ball into goal.  Eugénie Le Sommer and Marie-Antoinette Katoto added insurance goals in the 70th and 89th minutes.

On Friday, France hosted Iceland in a friendly, which the home team won 4:0.  Katoto also saw action in that match, which was her first international match since March 2019. (highlights)

Austria earned an important away victory against their main rival for the runner-up spot, Serbia, by the minimum of margins, on a lone goal by Nicole Billa.  Austria now nominally leads the group with six points.

Kazakhstan-France Highlights:

Austria’s goal against Serbia:

What’s Next: In November, France just has one match, hosting Serbia, while Austria plays the bottom two teams in the group, North Macedonia (away) and Kazakhstan (home). After November, both France and Austria are off until April 2020.  During the April window, Austria will host France.


GROUP H
Teams:  Belgium, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland
Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Switzerland, (2) Belgium (toss-up) {no change}

Friday, October 4th
Lithuania 0, Switzerland 3

Tuesday, October 8th
Romania 0, Belgium 1
Switzerland 2, Croatia 0

It was a special week for the Portland Thorns’ Ana-Marie Crnogorčević, who scored the game-winners in both of Switzerland‘s matches, converting a penalty kick against Lithuania, on the day after her 29th birthday, and netting a 9th-minute goal against her parents’ native country, Croatia. (SFV article on Crnogorčević, in German)

Meanwhile, Belgium earned an important road win against the third-strongest squad in the group, Romania, thanks to Laura Deneve’s 9th minute goal.

Both Switzerland and Belgium remain on maximum points through their matches so far.

Switzerland-Croatia Highlights

What’s Next:  In November, Belgium travels to Croatia and hosts Lithuania, while Switzerland only hosts Romania. Both Switzerland and Belgium are off until April 2020, when the Belgians hosts the Swiss in the two teams’ only match of that window.


GROUP I
Teams:  Germany, Greece, Montenegro, Republic of Ireland, Ukraine
Original Expected 1-2 Finish:  (1) Germany, (2) Ukraine or Ireland (toss-up)
Updated Expected Finish:  (1) Germany, (2) Ireland or Ukraine (toss-up, but advantage Ireland)

Saturday, October 5th
Germany 8, Ukraine 0

Tuesday, October 8th
Greece 0, Germany 5
Republic of Ireland 3, Ukraine 2

The marquee match of the window, Ireland-Ukraine, also turned out be the most dramatic of the window. In the windy Dublin night, Ireland scored twice in three minutes, on goals from Katie McCabe (25′) and Rianna Jarrett (28′), who each assisted on the other’s goal, but Ukraine pounced twice on defensive mistakes to equalize fifteen minutes later (34′, 43′).  In the second half, Denise O’Sullivan’s blocked shot rebounded off another Ukraine defender for an own goal (53′).  That goal was the difference for the Republic of Ireland, who earned an important three points against their main rival for the runner-up spot.

With the victory, the Republic of Ireland have an important head-to-head advantage over Ukraine, who sit at zero points after three matches.  Thus, Ireland looks slightly more likely to be the group runner-up, although that could easily change if Ireland falter down the road.

Germany remain perfect, racking up a second win against Ukraine and an away victory over Greece. With four clean sheets in four matches, Germany has a dominating goal difference of +31, which is a net advantage of +28 over Ireland. Three of those goals were scored by 18-year-old Klara Bühl against Ukraine, including the game-winner (7′, 58′, 61′).  Against Ukraine, Lina Magull also had a hat trick.

Ireland-Ukraine Highlights

Germany-Ukraine Highlights

Greece-Germany Highlights

What’s Next: Germany is off until April 2020, but will be traveling to London to face England at Wembley stadium on November 9th in front of over 70,000 fans.  Ireland only has one qualifier in November, away at Greece.  Ukraine has no scheduled qualifiers until April 2020.


RIGHT TRACK / OFF-TRACK / WRONG TRACK

A quick summary of which of the top twenty-plus teams are on course to qualifying for the 2021 Women’s Euro, based on their performances so far.  As with the last window’s summary, I have limited these lists to teams that have played (at least) two qualifying matches.

 

Right Track:  Netherlands (A), Russia (A), Italy (B), Denmark (B), Norway (C), Wales (C), Spain (D), Czech Republic (D), Finland (E), Sweden (F), Iceland (F), Austria (G), Switzerland (H), Belgium (H), Germany (I), Republic of Ireland (I)

Nine additional teams debut on the Right Track. All but one of those teams got at least their second win this window.  The lone exception is Russia, who, as expected, fell to their group’s presumptive winner, Netherlands, but remain on track to be Group A runner-up, behind the OranjeLeeuwinnen, who remain perfect with four wins in four matches.

Down in Group I, Germany also remains perfect with its two solid shutout victories.  Meanwhile, with two wins in two matches, including an important 3:2 home win over Ukraine, the Republic of Ireland have a clear foothold on the runner-up spot in the group.

Thanks to its 0:1 away victory over Belarus, Wales returns to the Right Track list as they now control the runner-up spot in Group C, behind Norway, who stay on maximum points following their two dominant wins this window.  Next month, Wales face Northern Ireland in a need-to-win match for both teams.

Norway’s neighbor, Sweden, enters on the right track after earning two solid victories this window.  Meanwhile, their Group F rival, Iceland are also three-for-three after adding another win.

In Group D, Spain is off to a solid start, with two wins, including a 1:5 away win over the Czech Republic, who are still on the proper path for claiming the runner-up spot over Poland.

The battle for the top spot in Group B continues as both Italy and Denmark doubled their number of wins this window and remain tied on points.  With one-third of their group matches played, both teams look to be locks for the top two spots in the groups. As to which team will the win the group, Italy’s goalscoring struggles remain to be a concern and give Denmark hope that they can avoid the playoff stage.

In the other toss-up race to be a group winner, Switzerland, after earning two wins this window, now has a nominal lead over Group H rival Belgium, who earned a tight 0:1 away win at Romania on Tuesday.

After defeating Albania in back-to-back matches, Finland is the first team in Group E to debut on the Right Track list, as group favorite Scotland and runner-up rival Portugal have each only played one match so far.  In November, Finland will need a result against Portugal to remain in the Right Track discussion.

As it stands in Group G, presumptive group winner France, with a full three points after their first match,  is in third place, behind expected runner-up Austria, who are two-for-two, and Serbia, who have two wins and one loss.  That lone loss came at home to Austria, by the slimmest of margins, 0:1.

Off-Track:  Ukraine (I)

Although Ukraine are mathematically still in a good position to claim the runner-up spot in Group I behind Germany, their away loss against the Republic of Ireland does significantly reduce their room for error.

Wrong Track:  None

So far, none of the top teams have fallen off the rails by dropping excessive points against non-contenders.

Not Listed: France (G), Portugal (E), Scotland (E), Poland (D)

France, Portugal, and Scotland have each only played one match, while Poland has yet to begin their qualification campaign.


BONUS:  HOST WATCH

During this international window, England hosted Brazil in Middlesbrough on Friday and then played Portugal on Tuesday, in a Lisbon suburb.

England 1, Brazil 2:  Two superb goals by the North Carolina Courage’s Debinha were the difference in the match, as Brazil gave England their fourth loss in a five-match winless streak.   Debinha’s first goal was a redirected cross headed down to the feet of Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps who was unable to get her hands onto the hard-hit shot in time.*  Debinha’s second goal was an off-balance looping chip that might have been deflected by the defender who challenged Debinha as she took the shot.  With ten minutes left, Bethany England headed in a long pass from Steph Houghton to halve their deficit.  (FA match report)

*I disagree with Sue Smith’s commentary in the highlights video that Earp being unable to save Debinha’s header goal was a significant mistake.  Absent a highlight reel kick-save, I don’t see how a goalkeeper would be reasonably expected to save such a shot.

England-Brazil Highlights

Portugal 0, England 1:  England’s winless woes were broken thanks to Beth Mead poaching home a goal after Portugal’s goalkeeper flubbed a catch of a lofted cross.  Up until that 72nd minute score, England failed to capitalize on its few good chances.  Cláudia Neto almost equalized on a stoppage time free kick that deflected under the crossbar and bounced off the back of 20-year-old goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck of Manchester City.  Luckily for England, Roebuck was able to corral the ball for a save. (FA match report)

Portugal-England Highlights

England next hosts Germany on Saturday, November 9th at Wembley stadium.  That match has sold over 75,000 tickets, as of early October (BBC).

 

Further Reading – After the Portugal match, Phil Neville was excessively defensive during his post-match press conference.  This column in The Guardian by journalist Suzanne Wrack discusses that incident and summarizes Neville’s questionable tenure as manager of the Lionesses: