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The Week in Women's Football: A comprehensive review of Champions League qualifying rounds - Groups 6 - 10

We continue our review of the 2019-20 European Women's Champions League Qualification Round—looking at Groups 6-10 this week in our second part, after reviewing Groups 1-5 last week (see:

2018/19 UEFA Champions League First Round Group Stage Qualifiers

Group 1: Breidablik of Iceland

Group 2: Mitrovica of Kosovo

Group 3: Hibernian of Scotland

Group 4: FC Minsk of Belarus

Group 5: ŽFK Spartak Subotica of Serbia

Group 6: BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan

Group 7: Braga of Portugal

Group 8: Anderlecht of Belgium

Group 9: FC Twente of the Netherlands

Group 10: Vllaznia of Albania

Group 6: BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), PK-35 Vantaa (FIN), Flora Tallinn (EST, hosts), EBS/Skála (FRO)

On the first match day on August 7, BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan shutout EBS/Skala of the Faroe Islands 9-0, while PK-35 Vantaa of Finland overcame Flora of Estonia 3-2. On August 10, BIIK-Kazygurt defeated Flora of Estonia 2-0, with Kyrgyzstani international forward Alina Livinenko scoring twice within the first 20 minutes. Livinenko holds the international record as the youngest goalscorer when she tallied as a 13-year-old in an Asian Cup Qualifying match in 2010. In the other game on match day 2, PK-35 Vantaa of Finland beat EBS/Skala of the Faroe Islands 5-0. On August 13, BIIK advanced to the Round of 32 for the sixth consecutive year with a 4-1 win over PK-35 Vantaa—who also entered the game on 6 points—with the Kazakh side giving up their only goal of the qualifiers in injury time, while scoring 15. Flora Tallinn finished in third with 3 points after a 2-0 win over EBS/Skala.

PK-35 Finland only had one import—American midfielder Kira Laurento-Falcoff; the 22-year-old played collegiately at Old Dominion University in Virginia.

Flora Tallinn of Estonia, unlike Gintra of fellow Baltic nation Lithuania, did not have any imports and is all domestic-based.

EBS Skala (Faroe Islands) also used all domestic-based players.

BIIK-Kazygurt, once again coached by Bulgarian native Kaloyan Petrov, who began his coaching career in the States as an assistant at semi-professional power FC Indiana, supplements many Kazakhstan internationals with imports. This year he had one Algerian/Canadian, five Americans, three from Africa and one each from Georgia and Serbia:

D Imane Chebel—Canada (She was raised in Canada but plays internationally for Algeria.)

D Shannon Mccarthy—US (she played previously with FC Kibi International University Charme in Takahashi City, Japan in the third tier. She played a few games last season with Lidkoping in the Swedish Elitettan second division. She played at the University of Miami in Florida.)

D Kennedy Rose—US (ex-Stephen F. Austin University in Texas)

D Madeleine Tanner Kaplan—US (ex-Baylor University)

D Brooke Denesik—US (ex-Texas Tech University, who was just named to the U.S. U-23 team for the 2019 Nordic Tournament in England from August 28 through September 2.)

M Arden Holden—US (ex-Ohio State University)

M Marija Ilic—Serbia

F Gulnara Gabelia—Georgia (Gabelia scored five goals in the 9-0 opening win over EBS Skala of the Faroe Islands)

F Racheal Kundananji—Zambia

F Misozi Zulu—Zambia

F Charity Reuben—Nigeria

Last season BIIK shocked Barcelona of Spain 3-1 at home in the first leg at the Round of 32 stage but fell 3-0 in Spain to the eventual WCL finalists in 2018-19, losing 4-3 on aggregate.

Group 7: Apollon LFC (CYP), Sturm Graz (AUT), Braga (POR), Rīgas Futbola skola (LVA, hosts)

On August 10, Sturm Graz of Austria shutout RFS Latvia 4-0 while Braga of Portugal (debutants in the Women's Champions League this season) shocked veteran CWL side Apollon of Cyprus 1-0, with Shade Pratt's early goal (10') the difference in the match. With the win, Braga upset the form book and advanced to the Round of 32 even before the third group match day. On August 13, Braga romped to an 8-0 win over Rigas Futbola skola of Latvia, while Apollon also won comfortably over Sturm Graz 7-2, with American Krystyna Freda and England's Rio Hardy both scoring braces, after they had matching hat-tricks on match day 1 in a 10-0 win over Rigas FS.

Rigas of Latvia had two imports from Russia and one from Norway:

D Ilona Leonov—Russia

M Pia Foosnaes—Norway

F Alina Polikarpova—Russia

Sturm Graz of Austria had four imports, one from Kosovo and three who played at U.S. universities, two of whom are Canadian:

F Modesta Uka—Kosovo

M Emily Cancienne—US (ex-Louisiana State University and a coach for the homeless World Cup, who has been with the club for four years.)

F Isabella Habuda—Canada (The 22-year-old former Canadian U-17 international and Liberty University in Virginia forward played a few games last year with Umea IK in the Swedish second division).

F Katrina Giantsopoulos—Canada (A 21-year-old from Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.)

Apollon of Cyprus is always a massive importer of foreign talent and this year had only 3 Cypriots on their UEFA Women's Champions League roster:

D Kostantina Pafiti (24)

M Antria Michail (27)

M Foteini Andronikou (25)

Apollon's imports included:

G Selena Delia Babb—Netherlands

G Carissa Miller—US—She played at Eindhoven for 2 seasons straight out of college.

D Matilda Abramo—Sweden (20)

D Victoria Frances Bruce—US—(25) Bruce previously played at FH in Iceland, as well as at Rangers in Scotland and holds a British passport along with her American one. She played at the University of North Carolina and Davidson College.

D Steffi Hardy—England (23)

D Kyriaki Kynossidou—Greece (30)

M Danai-Eleni Sidira—Greece (28)

M Panela Begic—Slovenia (24)

M Martina Surnovska—Slovakia (20)

M Alyssa Lagonia—Italy/Canada (30) Lagonia grew up in Canada but started playing professionally in England in 2012 with Doncaster and has since played in Italy, Switzerland and Cyprus. She has been capped by Canada at the senior level.

F Krystyna Freda—USA (25).

F Eleni Markou—Greece (24)

F Rio Hardy—England (23)

F Sandra Voitane—Latvia (19)

F Rhoda Mulaudzi—South Africa—The 29-year-old had 4 goals in 12 games with Canberra United last winter in the Australian W-League and was one of the final selections on South Africa's WWC squad this past summer in France, playing 45 minutes in one match.

Krystyna Freda played last season with Somatio Barcelona in Cyprus, when they debuted in the Champions League, advancing to the Round of 32 where they fell 2-1 on aggregate to Glasgow City; the American forward is now leading the front line for her new Cypriot club. We featured the American last season in our Women's Champions League coverage (

Rio and Steffi Hardy are 22-year-old twins who were raised in Workington in England. They have traveled to many countries to pursue their love of football, including time with Blackburn Rovers, at the University of South Alabama in the States, in Iceland with Grindavik beginning in March 2018 and now for professional Cypriot side Apollon, signing in January of 2019. Steffi told the BBC News recently that, though Apollon has little completion in the league [having won 9 of the last league championships], that they still are learning more about the game: "Our coach always gives us little challenges during the game. If it's going to be not such a tough game, he'll say 'use your weaker foot'. There's loads of stuff we can work on. It's not just about the score. Then during the week, we're playing against boys teams to get more match fitness and have a tougher challenge during the week as well."

The Hardy sisters left Iceland for Cyprus and the chance to play in the Champions League [which they accomplished this summer], as Rio explained: "That's the goal. Everybody wants to play in the Champions League…. It's so professional here and we're developing all the time."

They moved to Apollon after signing with an agent, which is a growing trend in the women's game—an issue that this column will focus more on in the weeks to come. Steffi said: "We felt like having an agent was the best thing for us to get the best opportunities, to get what we need to get from football, and it's worked out well for us." Rio added: "Next Gen Sport Solutions came out to Cyprus before us, to double-check everything was going to be exactly as the club said it was. We haven't looked back since."

Braga of Portugal had two Brazilians, two Americans and single imports from Nigeria, the Republic of Ireland and Venezuela:

G Marie Hourihan—Republic of Ireland (32), who played in the WSL for years with Birmingham City, Chelsea, Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion before moving to Portugal this season.

D Janaina—Brazil (31)

D Rayanne Machado—Brazil (25)

M Daniuska Rodriguez—Venezuela (20), who was on the U-17, U-20 and full national team

M Denali Murnan—US (26), who played with Zaragoza in Spain in 2017/18 and in 2016 with ONS in Finland and with Ramat HaSharon in Israel

F Folashade Pratt—US (26), known as Shade, she played at the University of Maryland, briefly with Sky Blue FC and the Portland Thorns in 2015 and 2016 in the NWSL and then traveled on to Roa of Norway in 2017 and IFK Kalmar in Sweden's Elitettan Division last season.

F Hannah Keane—US (26), played collegiately at San Diego State University and then in Germany with USV Jena as well as in Australia and England.

F Farida Machia—Cameroon (28)

F Chinaza Uchendu—Nigeria (21)

Uchendu, the Nigerian international, joined Braga in 2018 from Rivers Angels in Nigeria.She played on last summer's Nigerian Women's World Cup squad. Ahead of the World Cup she talked to in Nigeria about her club career: "People regularly complimented my play and suggested that I was good enough to play professionally, so I decided to go for a few club trials. The first team I played for was Tokas Queens in Lagos. It was a very good experience for me as I got to play with more experienced players. I remember making my debut against Bayelsa Queens, I had put in everything into the game hoping the coach would notice my play, unfortunately we lost the match and it didn't go as I planned. Now I play for Sporting Club de Braga in Portugal and we just had a historical season, winning the LIGA BPI and Portuguese Cup double."

Uchendu talked about her future club plans and gave advice to aspiring women's footballers at home: "I am about to achieve one of my personal goals which is playing in the UEFA Women's Champions League…. My plan for my career is to hopefully play in a bigger and better team. I want young Nigerian girls to trust the process. Just like anyone who they see playing professionally, they were at their level before they got to where they are today. They need to believe in themselves, be determined, be confident, keep working hard and one day, God will see them through to let their dreams become reality."

The Women's Champions League adventure continues for Uchendu and her Braga teammates with their surprising advancement to the Round of 32.

Group 8: LSK Kvinner (NOR), PAOK (GRE), Anderlecht (BEL, hosts), Linfield (NIR)

On August 10, Anderlecht defeated LSK of Norway 3-2, with goals from Romania'sLaura Rus, Laura Deneve of Belgium and substitute Mariam Abdulai Toloba of Belgium, offsetting a goal from Ina Gausdal (Norway) early in the second half to give the Norwegians the lead. Sophie Haug (Norway) pulled one back near the end but LSK couldn't salvage any points in the match. Linfield of Northern Ireland defeated PAOK of Greece 3-2 the same day, with forward Kristy McGuinness (Northern Ireland) scoring a penalty in the 89th minute for the winner.

On August 13, Anderlecht won the group with a 3-1 win over Linfield (who finished third on three points)—using two goals from 26-year-old Belgium international defender Laura Deloose, while LSK of Lillestrom finished second on 6 points after a 1-0 win over PAOK (who were pointless in their thirteenth European club trip, having advanced to the Round of 32 on 4 occasions—the last time in 2017-18) with an injury-time winner from their 29-year-old captain and Norwegian international defender Ingrid Wold, who has only played for LSK Kvinner. LSK made headlines last season by advancing to the Quarterfinals, where they fell to Barcelona by a 4-0 aggregate, and made the Round of 16 two of the previous three seasons.

Linfield of Northern Ireland used an entirely home-based side.

LSK Kvinner had only one import: Isabell Bachor (36) of Germany in midfield, who left Bayern Munich in 2013 and is starting her seventh season for LSK. The team is coached by former WWC winner Hege Riise, who won the European Women's Championship title in 2003, the Women's World Cup in 2005 and the Olympic Gold Medal in 2000 with Norway—retiring with 188 caps and 58 goals—and also competed in the first American professional league for women—the WUSA—with the Carolina Courage and was a U.S. women's national team assistant coach in the past under Pia Sundhage.

POAK of Greece had two imports: defender Miljana Smiljkovic of Serbia and forward Gisela Lisbeth Betancourt of Colombia (32). Betancourt, a Colombian international, has played with the UWS Houston Aces and collegiately at Graceland College, a small school in Missouri. She scored 23 goals a year ago for Greek club Elpides Karditsas A.C to finish third in the league in goalscoring before being sought out for a transfer this summer by PAOK.

Anderlecht used three imports, including the well-known and well-traveled Romanian international Laura Rus (the 31-year-old has played for clubs at home, in Spain, Denmark, Cyprus, South Korea, Italy and now Belgium). Other imports for Anderlecht included:

M Stefania Vatafu of Romania

F Solange Carvalhas of Portugal

Group 9: FC Twente (NED, hosts), Górnik Łęczna (POL), Beşiktaş (TUR), Alashkert (ARM)

On August 7, Besiktas of Turkey and Gornik Leczna of Poland tied 1-1 while Twente blasted Alashkert 8-0.

A 2-2 tie on August 10th between Twente and Besiktas hurt both sides and prevented the Dutch side from clinching a Round of 32 spot after 2 games while leaving Besiktas with 2 points after 2 games and in third. The same day, Gornic Leczna blasted Alashkert of Armenia 13-0, with 4 goals from Polish international Ewelina Kamczyk, and hat tricks from Polish U-17 international Agnieszka Jedrzejewicz and Polish U-19 international Nikola Karczewska.

On August 13, Twente ensured their advancement to the knockout stage with 7 points after a 2-0 win over Gornik Leczna of Poland, who finished in third with 4 points, while also undefeated Besiktas finished second with 5 points after dismissing Alashkert 3-0. Fenna Kalma (19)—a U-17 international for the Netherlands—scored 5 goals during the qualifying tournament for Twente. Twente is competing in its sixth WCL campaign, and advanced to the Round of 16 in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Twente's roster contained all Dutch nationals except for 19-year old forward Davinia Vanmechelen of Belgium.

Górnik Łęczna (POL), had two Ukrainians: defender Alona Kovtuna (27) and forward Nataliia Hyrb (19).

Besiktas of Turkey has one import in experienced defender: Jessica O'Rourke of the U.S. (33), who is known in Turkey as Jessica Carmikli. She went to North Carolina State University and played for FC Indiana, the Buffalo Flash and New Jersey Wildcats in the USL W-League. She was selected by the Chicago Red Stars in the Women's Professional Soccer initial draft in 2009 (an event this reporter attended in St. Louis along with a couple of reporters and over 100 excited college seniors), has played in Spain and Russia and lives in Turkey with her husband. She scored in the last match of the group stage.

Alashkert of Armenia used only natives Armenians on their UEFA WCL roster with the exception of 19-year-old Maral Artin of Germany, who played in the second division in Germany for three seasons with Frankfurt II (two years) and Bayern Munich (one season), and previously as a junior at 1899 Hoffenheim 2.

Group 10: Gintra Universitetas (LTU, hosts), Vllaznia (ALB), Wexford Youths (IRL), Birkirkara (MLT)

On August 10 on match day 2, Vllaznia of Albania defeated Birkirkara of Malta 1-0 on American Amanda Doyle's 16th minute goal, while in probably the most shocking result of the Qualification Round, Wexford came back from an early Gintra lead through Isadora Freitas (Brazil) in the 15th minute, countering with strikes by McKenna Davidson (37') and Lauren Kelly (47')—both from the Republic of Ireland—to win 2-1 to put the Lithuanian high-powered side in deep trouble for moving on to the next round.

According to the Roscommon Times, "the hosts went ahead with a quarter of an hour gone through Isadora Freitas' header but Youths grew in confidence throughout the contest and were level in the 37th minute. Rianna Jarrett burst down the right and found a pinpoint cross for McKenna Davidson to send a bullet header past Gintra goalkeeper Greta Lukjančukė to equalize. Two minutes after the break, Youths were ahead. McKenna Davidson turned provider as her cross from the edge of the area on the left was met by the head of Lauren Kelly and she powered her header home off the post."

Head Coach Tom Elmes said after the match: "It's a fantastic result for us and it was fully deserved. We spoke about how we felt after the Vllaznia game [a 3-1 loss on August 7] going into this game. There was a fear factor about it, the fear of failure so we addressed that and got into a positive mindset, and I think you saw that today. The team really stuck to the game-plan and it worked well out to a tee; it was one of those games when it all came together. We've got great experience in the team but we're always bringing in new players and they've all brought into the ethos, and coming into European competition, maybe that's what we needed for everyone to gel together. I think you can see what we're capable of and we need to bring that into our domestic campaign when we return. We've got a big game on Tuesday and we want to finish as high as we can."

This group saw a huge shock in the Group 10 team advancing, along with Group 7's Braga and Group 2's Mitrovica of Kosovo, as Vllaznia of Albania won the group as a result of their 1-1 tie with Gintra on August 13, with a late penalty kick goal by 22-year-old Albania forward Megi Doci offsetting a Lyubov Gudchenko (Belarus) tally in the 49th minute. Gintra finished a shocking third on 4 points, three behind Vllaznia and two behind second place Wexford, who defeated Birkirkara of Malta 7-2, with Republic of Ireland U-19 international midfielder Kylie Murphy scoring three goals.

Gintra has appeared in the Continental club competition 16 consecutive years, advancing to the Round of 32 on three occasions and reaching the Round of 16 in 2014-15 and 2017-18.

Vllaznia of Shkoder, in their present form since 2013-14, has won the last six Albanian League and Cup titles. They have participated in the Women's Champions League now nine times—including their direct descendent of Ada Velipoje, who disbanded in 2013—and this year was the first time they have advanced from the Qualification stage, with only 5 wins prior to this season. They served notice of their promise last season as they finished second in an all-Eastern European group, with 6 points, but their 7 goals for and 7 against left them ninth out of 10 teams vying for two second place spots to advance, while only the group winners advanced this season.

Ahead of the tournament, Gintra had warmed up by winning the 2019 Amber Cup tournament title, as their 2019 South African Women's World Cup participants Nothando Vilakazi and Jermaine Seoposenwe led the side. They opened the tournament with wins over 2018-19 league champions Gornik Leczna 3-1 of Poland and Dinamo Riga of Latvia before tying their final match 0-0 against Polish side Czarni, before losing on penalties 4-2. They won the Amber Cup title for the second time with 7 points, having first triumphed in 2015. Gornik finished with six points in second, Czarni in third with five points, while Riga finished fourth with three loses. Seoposenwe, who scored two goals in three games in the competition, was named the best Gintra player at the Amber awards ceremony.

Gintra's imports included:

D Northando Vilakazi—South Africa

D Anastasia Filenko—Ukraine

D Karen Bender—Brazil—the former Brazilian U-20 international played at home for Iranduba and Kindermann before moving abroad to Lithuania this season with her sister Kelen

M Lyubov Gudchenko—Belarus

M Jermaine Seoposenwe—South Africa

M Anna Pilipenko—Belarus

F Isadora Freitas—Brazil

F Kelen Bender—Brazil—who previously played at Iranduba and Kindermann Avai at home with her sister Karen.

F Miranda Nild USA (22)

Nild played last summer for Thailand at the Women's World Cup; she was born and grew up in California and went to the University of California-Berkeley, finishing her career last season and qualified to play for Thailand through her father. She is the first Thai footballer to play in the UEFA club tournament. She has so far netted 12 goals for her country and also participated in 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup and 2018 AFF Women's Championship.

Note: Lithuanian forward Rimante Jonusaite (15) has 17 goals this season for Gintra after 8 league games, including 6 against SSG-FA Siauliai in a 15-0 victory and 5 against Utenis in a 16-0 win.

Last season, Gintra had 6 imports from Eastern Europe (two from Serbia and one each from Belarus, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova, and one each from Brazil, the U.S. and South Africa. All were gone in 2018-19 except for midfielder Lyubov Gudchenko of Belarus—Gintra is definitely a feeder club for larger clubs in Europe and elsewhere, where players are in a shop window and can show their abilities, particularly during the Women's Champions League.

Wexford Youths of Ireland had an entire home-based squad—except for American forward Mckenna Davidson (24). Davidson, having spent 2016 studying at the University of Limerick as part of her degree in international business from Pacific University in Oregon. It was while playing with Limerick that Davidson was spotted by current Wexford Youths assistant coach Jamie Buckley, so when she was looking for an opportunity to return to Europe to continue her football career, having had spells with clubs in Chattanooga, Seattle and Fresno in the Women's Premier Soccer League (the second tier of the women's football in the States), Wexford invited her to join up on Buckley's recommendation. Davidson explained: "I just thought, 'why not?' I hadn't started a career yet, I got my degree, so when I had the chance to come back I thought it was a no-brainer. I'd already been to Ireland, I loved it, I love the people here, and on top of that I'd get to play football. The only hard thing is not having a work visa." Davidson told the Irish Times: "Sometimes I get concerned about what people will think about my life—I'm not getting paid, I am spending so much money out of my own pocket, but I just think this isn't about the money, this isn't about pleasing other people, this is my life. I love playing football, I never thought I would be able to once I left college. So yeah, this is a dream for me."

Birkirkara of Malta, which won their third consecutive Malta league title in April, had a 58-year-old goalkeeper in Tonins Dimech of Malta, who was born in December of 1960, and only one import: Jelena Sakic (26) of Serbia.

Vllaznia of Albania's imports included four Americans and two from neighboring country Montenegro:

G Danielle Marie Etzel—US (22) (ex-Harvard University)

D Cassidy Blanchard—US (22) (ex-University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

D Aleksandra Popovic—Montenegro (20)

M Milica Vulic—Montenegro (23)

F Hannah Dauzat—US (24) (ex-University of Houston and the TTI Bluebonnets in Texas of the WPSL.)

F Amanda Sh'Rae Doyle—US (24) (ex-Stephen F .Austin University in Texas)

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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