My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
The qualification process for the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championships has begun, and here I round up the Home Nations results. There are EIGHT groups, with the group winners qualify automatically. The six best runners-up also qualify, with the other two runners-up play a play-off to decide the final place.
Northern Ireland has yet to play their first qualifier.
Scotland, who have never qualified for a major tournament, have their best chance to do so this time. Not only do they have a strong squad (including the outstanding Kim Little), their main rivals in the group are Iceland – who are only two places above them in the latest World Rankings. If these qualifying rules were used in the previous World Cup, Scotland would have been in Canada.
Their final group game is away to Iceland, and hopefully that will only decide who the winners of the Group will be, and not decide whether Scotland qualify.
Scotland’s first qualifier was away to Slovenia and it went to plan with a 3-0 victory to move the Scots to the top of Group 1. Kim Little scored a hat-trick: the first a stunning chip whilst her second and third saw her round the keeper before scoring.
Scotland team vs Slovenia: (4-2-3-1) Gemma Fay, Frankie Brown, Jennifer Beattie, Ifeoma Dieke, Hayley Lauder, Rachel Corsie, Leanne Crichton (Caroline Weir 62), Lisa Evans, Jo Love (Lizzie Arnot 67), Kim Little, Jane Ross (Leanne Ross 85).
Goals: Kim Little 28, 49, 59.
Ireland, another country who have never qualified for a major tournament, started their campaign with a home tie against the group’s second seeds Finland. If Ireland is to qualify, it will most likely be at the expense of the Finns.
The fixtures meant that Finland were involved in the group’s first two fixtures, meaning they came to Ireland off the back of a narrow 1-0 win over Montenegro.
At the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin, in front of 2,905 people, it was Finland who came out on top. Finland took the lead in the 13th minute through defender Emma Koivisto before they doubled the lead when Linda Sällström‘s header midway through the second half.
Despite Ireland creating several chances, they couldn’t get a goal back.
Ireland team vs Finland: (4-2-3-1) Emma Byrne, Meabh De Burca, Louise Quinn, Megan Campbell (Ruesha Littlejohn 43), Sophie Perry, Diane Caldwell, Niamh Fahey, Julie Russell (Siobhan Killeen 72), Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Aine O’Gorman (Stephanie Roche 72).
England has entered this qualifying campaign, confident of the back of their third place finish in the 2015 World Cup. Manager Mark Sampson named an experimental squad, with several of the established stars missing.
Their first tie was an away trip to Tallinn to play Estonia, and they got off to a perfect start. Danielle Carter, who was making her England debut, opened the scoring with a close-range strike. Jo Potter and Fran Kirby made sure the Lionesses went in at half-time 3-0 up.
England pressed on in the second half with Jill Scott getting their fourth, before Isobel Christiansen became the second debutant to score. Fran Kirby scored her second before Carter made sure she would take home the match ball with two goals in the last ten minutes.
The game was also notable for Jess Clarke winning her 50th cap, and Amy Turner making her debut.
England Team vs Estonia: (3-4-1-2) Carly Telford, Amy Turner, Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes, Gemma Davison (Ellen White), Jill Scott (Eniola Aluko 68), Jo Potter, Fran Kirby, Isobel Christiansen, Danielle Carter, Jess Clarke (Casey Stoney 90+3).
Goals: Danielle Carter 2, 83, 90+2; Jo Potter 34; Fran Kirby 40, 81; Jill Scott 53; Isobel Christiansen 74.
Wales have never qualified for a major tournament, but with players like Jess Fishlock ad Natasha Harding, they have a potential chance of reaching the 2017 Euros – under the new management of Jayne Ludlow. Their first game was against the second seeds Austria, which, unfortunately, ended in a 3-0 defeat.
Austria took the lead in the first half through Katharina Schiechtl heading in Carina Wenniger’s cross. They doubled their lead in the 75th minute when Sarah Putingham scored directly from a corner before Nina Burger made it 3-0 with a header.
Wales Team vs Austria: Joanne Price, Nia Jones, Kylie Davies, Sophie Ingle (Laura Walkley 81), Rhiannon Roberts, Hayley Ladd, Angharad James (Helen Bleazard 54), Melissa Fletcher (Helen Ward 46), Natasha Harding, Jessica Fishlock, Rachel Rowe
The Editor of Tartan Kicks, the magazine dedicated to Scottish Women's Football