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The Week in Women's Football: European WCQ Group by Group; Mexico WNT summary; CONCACAF friendlies update;

This week we review the UEFA Women's World Cup Qualifiers held from April 5 through April 10, with many teams playing two matches over that 5 day period. We also look at three international friendlies involving CONCACAF sides, Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

European World Cup Qualifying Update by Group—April 5-10, 2018

Group 1

On April 5, Russia went to Zenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina and came home with a much needed 6-1 win, their first victory in three group matches. Elena Danilova (Ryazan) and 22-year old Nadezhda Smirnova (CSKA Moscow) both scored braces. Goalkeeper Elvira Todua let in Bosnia and Herzegovina's first goal by mistake in the 5th minute and it took the visitors until late in the first half to take the lead, through Danilova's first goal in the 26th minute and Maria Galay's (Zvezda 2005) strike in the 39th minute.

On April 6, in one of the long awaited games of the Group, England drew 0-0 with Wales at Southampton. Wales stymied England with a strong rearguard action; England had 29 shots to Wales' 3, with 11 shots on goal to a single one for Wales and England also had a 15 to 1 advantage on corners.

On April 9, Russia won away to Kazakhstan 3-0—their second win in four days—with all of their scoring coming in the second half from midfielder Nadezhda Smirnova (CSKA Moscow), who scored a brace, and forward Elena Danilova (Ryazan-VDV). Danilova won a WPSL title in the U.S. with FC Indiana in 2007, a club then coached by former Haitian Women's National Team and now Puerto Rican Women's National Team head coach Shek Borkowski.

On April 10, Bosnia and Herzegovina lost at home to England 2-0, with Toni Duggan (Barcelona) and Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns) scoring second half goals to give England the group lead with 13 points from 5 games—their lone blemish being the tie to Wales four days before—who are second on 11 points from 5 matches. Russia (7 points from 4 games) is still in the competitive frame for second place after their two road wins this month, with Bosnia and Herzegovina (3 points) and Kazakhstan (0 points) lagging behind with 5 matches completed.

Group 2

On April 5, Switzerland defeated host Scotland 1-0 to remain undefeated and untied at the head of the table, substantially damaging Scotland's bid to win the group, though they should take second and could qualify for France through the playoffs involving the four best runners-up sides. Captain Lara Dickenmann (Wolfsburg) scored the only goal in the 32nd minute for the Swiss.

On April 6, Poland dropped two points at home after a 1-1 tie with Albania, which could be the difference between their finishing second and third in the group. Katarzyna Daleszczyk of Brescia of Italy gave Poland the early advantage in the second minute while Geldona Morina (MSV Duisburg of Germany) tied it up in the 74th minute for Albania.

On April 10, host Albania beat Belarus 1-0 with Lucie Gjini (23) of Vllaznia of Albania scoring two minutes from the end of regulation time. Goalkeeper Marigona Zani (21), who plays in Germany at the Division III regional level, recorded the shutout.

On April 10, Scotland defeated visiting Poland 3-0, with all the goals coming from English-based players within the last 11 minutes of the match from substitute Zoe Ness (Durham Women's FC in England), Claire Emslie (Manchester City) and Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea). Lee Alexander of Glasgow City recorded the shutout.

Switzerland sits atop the Group 2 table with 15 points from 5 matches, with Scotland (9 points from 4 matches) and Poland (7 points from 5 matches) well adrift of the leaders. Albania (4 points from 7 games) and Belarus (3 points from 5 games) are behind the top three.

Group 3

On April 6, the Republic of Ireland nipped Slovakia 2-1 in Dublin, with all the goals coming in the second half by the Irish! Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne) scored first in the 69th minute but then Manchester City goalkeeper Marie Hourihan gifted the visitors the tying goal in the 73rd minute. Substitute Amber Barrett scored the winner three minutes from time to give her country the three points.

Also on April 6, the Netherlands hosted Northern Ireland and probably put the lights out on the Northern Irish hopes for a World Cup bid with an emphatic 7-0 win. Lieke Martens of Barcelona scored a brace within the first 17 minutes of the game and Sherida Spitse (Twente) also scored twice.

On April 10, the Republic of Ireland hosted Netherlands in Dublin in a massive game for both teams. Twenty-one-year-old Lineth Beerensteyn (Bayern Munich) tallied in the 11th minute and then a penalty from Sherida Spitse (Twente) in the 23rd minute gave the reigning UEFA Women's Champions the three points. Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal (Arsenal) posted the shutout.

Also on April 10, in Portadown, Northern Ireland fell to Norway by a 3-0 score, with all the goals coming in the last half hour in Portadown, with Wolfsburg's Glenn Hansen scoring twice.

The Netherlands is the only unbeaten team in Group 3 with 13 points from 5 games, with the Republic of Ireland second on 10 points from 5 games, after their first defeat to the leaders on April 10. Norway is back in the hunt for at least second place with 9 points from 4 games. Northern Ireland has 3 points from 5 games and Slovakia is still pointless after 5 games. This group's second place battle should be decided in June when the Republic of Ireland and Norway play their two fixtures within four days of each other.

Group 4

On April 5, Sweden defeated Hungary 4-1 in a match that was only 2-1 until the final minutes, thanks to Fanni Vago's (St. Polten of Austria) 63rd minute goal. French-based Sofia Jakobsson and Stina Blackstenius (both Montpellier) scored as did long-time captain Caroline Seger (ex-Olympique Lyon and now at home with Rosengard) and substitute Mimmi Larsson (Eskilstuna).

Also on April 5, Ukraine took an important road victory over Croatia 3-0, with all their tallies coming in the first half. Tetyana Kozyrenko (Gintra of Lithuania) scored a brace within 7 minutes at the end of the half. Croatia's Matea Bosnjak scored into her own net to give the Ukraine the lead in the 25th minute.

On April 9, Hungary defeated host Croatia 3-1 in Zadar with two goals by Fanni Vago, (St. Polten in Austria). Zsanett Jakabfi of Wolfsburg scored the other goal while defender Sandra Zigic (ZNK Osijek) scored a lone reply late in injury time for the Croatians.

On April 9, Denmark defeated the Ukraine 1-0 in Viborg with Sanne Troelsgaard (Rosengard of Sweden) scoring the only goal in the 78th minute for the 2017 UEFA Women's Championships runners-up.

Sweden tops the group after 4 games played with 12 points, with Denmark second on 9 points (after forfeiting their first match with Sweden due to a player contract dispute) Ukraine is still in the running for second with 7 points from 4 matches. Hungary (4 points) and Croatia (2 points) are out of the running for a Women's World Cup spot since both teams have played 6 matches and have only 2 games remaining.

Group 5

On April 6, Slovenia hosted surprise package Iceland, who shocked Germany 3-2 away on October 20th. Iceland defeated Slovenia 2-0 on first half goals from Gunnhildur Jonsdottir (ex-Valerenga of Norway who joined the Utah Royals of the NWSL and has already scored once in two games so far this season—the clubs first ever goal within 9 minutes on their inaugural game) in the 15th minute and Rakel Honnudottir (Breidablik of Iceland) in the 37th minute.

On April 7, Germany hosted the Czech Republic in Halle and won 4-0, with Essen's Lea Schuller scoring all four goals, two in the first half and two in the second, giving her five so far in the qualifying tournament, two goals behind UEFA Qualifiers goal scoring leader Janice Cayman of Belgium.

On April 10, Germany defeated Slovenia away 4-0 and Iceland won by a similar wide margin at the Faroe Island (5-0), with Jonsdottir again scoring, with the winning tally in the 37th minute.

Germany leads the group with 15 points from 6 matches, with Iceland second with 13 points from 5 and a crucial home match between the two leaders coming on September 1. It looks like a two team race at this point with the Czech Republic (7 points), Slovenia (3 points) and the Faroe Islands (0 points) seemingly out of the running.

Group 6

On April 6, Italy defeated Moldova on the road 3-1. Italy scored through Linda Tucceri Cimini (San Zaccaria) and Valentina Giacinti (Brescia) along with a Moldovan own goal by Nadejda Colesnicerco (ARF Criuleni), while Anastasia Toma (Noroc of Moldova) had the lone reply.

On April 6, Belgium hosted Portugal and both teams came away with a 1-1 draw, which probably was more damaging for Portugal's hopes in the group. Both goals came in second half injury time, first by Anderlecht's Tine De Caigny in the 91st minute while Dolores Silva (Jena of Germany) scored the equalizer in the 94th minute for Portugal.

On April 10, Italy defeated Belgium 2-1, with Brescia's Cristiana Girelli scoring the winner in the 80th minute after Montpellier's Janice Cayman scored from the penalty spot in the 37th minute to give her side the lead; Girelli's club teammate Martina Roscussi scored 5 minutes later. Cayman now leads the competition with 7 goals.

On April 10, Moldova hosted Romania and drew 0-0 despite Romania having an 18-1 advantage on shot attempts, 4-0 for shots on goal and a huge advantage for corners (14-0).

Italy is perfect from 6 matches with 18 points with Belgium second with 10 points from 5 matches. Portugal and Romania are tied with 4 points from 4 and 5 games, respectively and seemingly out of the running, while Moldova has one point from their tie at home with Romania on April 10.

Group 7

On April 5, Austria tied Serbia 1-1 at home; Marija Radojicic (Spartak Subotica of Serbia) scored in the fifth minute but Austria gained the tie through Serbian Defender Aleksandra Lazarevic (Breznica of Montenegro), who put the ball through her own net around the half hour mark. The home tie really hurts Austria as they will face a tough battle with Finland—now coached by experienced Swedish coach Anna Signeul—for the second spot behind powerful Spain.

On April 7, Spain beat Finland in the Helsinki national football stadium 2-0 on goals by Irene Paredes (Paris St. Germain) and Olga Garcia (Barcelona), with goalkeeper Dolores Gallardo (Atletico Madrid) in goal for the shutout.

On April 10, Israel hosted Serbia in Ramat Gan and lost 1-0 to a Milica Stankovic (Masinac in Serbia) strike.

On April 10, Austria hosted Spain in Maria Enzersdorg, with the visitors winning 1-0 through a Jenni Hermoso (Paris St. Germain and ex-Tyreso of Sweden and Barcelona and Atletico Madrid) goal.

Spain is in the driver's seat with 15 points from 5 games, with Finland, Austria and Serbia all joint second with 7 points, from 4-5-6 games respectively. Israel is at the bottom with a single point from 6 games.

If the UEFA qualifiers ended today, the Group winners would be England, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Spain. All seven nations would be repeat sides from the 2015 Women's World Cup except for Italy, which has not qualified for a Women's World Cup since 1999, but have made the last 6 European Championships dating to 1997, including finishing as runners-up in 1997 and 2009 and the 2013 Quarterfinals.

CONCACAF Friendlies

In friendlies involving the U.S., Mexico and Canada during the international break, the U.S. defeated visiting Mexico twice by large margins, whereas Canada lost on the road to France 1-0. On April 5, the U.S. Women's National Team defeated Mexico 4-1 in EverBrank Field in Jacksonville, Florida in front of a crowd of 14,360. Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit) and Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC) scored singles while Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) tallied twice to put the USA up 4-0, before Mexico scored through Katie Johnson's (Sky Blue FC) lob over goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), after Ariana Calderon (Thor--Iceland) fed her a defense splitting pass from a lofted ball in midfield.

In the second game on April 8 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, the Americans won 6-2, with Alex Morgan again scoring two, along with singles from Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.Rapinoe added four assists in a phenomenal game for the 2015 WWC winner, but Lloyd's single goal was a landmark as it marked her 100th national team goal in her 252nd national team games, the sixth player to achieve 100 tallies. With four more games, Lloyd will surpass the all-time goal scorer Abby Wambach for fifth in international appearances for the Americans. Mexico actually had a 2-1 lead after 24 minutes when Monica Ocampo (Puebla) scored directly from a corner kick in the 17th minute and then 7 minutes later Kiana Palacios (Clubless) scored with a header from another Ocampo corner kick. The game attracted 15,349 fans on a chilly afternoon.

MEXICO Summary

Mexico finished second at last month's Turkish Women's Cup 2018, defeating Latvia (5-0), Jordan (5-1) and Poland (1-0) in their group before losing to France's "B" WNT in the final 2-1. Monica Ocampo scored Mexico's goal eight minutes from time.

Just four players on Mexico's roster are playing in their domestic league, two for Pachuca in midfielder Karla Nieto and veteran midfielder Ocampo—who played in the WPS with the Atlanta Beat and in NWSL with Sky Blue FC. One comes from Atlas and the other from Mexico City power Club America.

More of the Mexican roster are playing in Europe than in the past: three in Iceland, two in Spain, one in France—midfielder Cristina Ferral with Marseille, and one in Sweden—Anisa Guajardo of Sundsvalls. Kenti Robles has been playing in Spain since she was a teenager, first for Espanyol, then Barcelona and now champions Atletico Madrid. Before going to Iceland, Bianca Sierra played in the NWSL with the Washington Spirit and Boston Breakers.

As always, Mexico has a number of players with U.S. connections, with 13 Mexican-Americans and three currently playing college soccer in the USA. In addition, defender Christina Murillo, who played collegiately at Michigan, is playing for the Chicago Red Stars reserves in the WPSL. Two—goalkeeper Bianca Henninger and forward Katie Johnson—play in the NWSL.

Mexico's new head coach Roberto Medina was a professional player who played with Pachuca, Tecos, Monterrey, Leon, Puebla, Atlante, Irapuato, Veracruz and the Pumas of the National University. He is the former head coach of the Mexico U-20 WNT, which he coached at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, as Mexico advance to the quarterfinal before falling to South Korea.

Mexico Women's National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Bianca Henninger (Houston Dash, USA), 12-Cecilia Santiago (Club América)

DEFENDERS (9): 2-Kenti Robles (Atlético Madrid, ESP), 3-Bianca Sierra (Thór / KA, ISL), 4-Vanessa Flores (West Virginia, USA), 5-Mónica Flores (Unattached), 13-Annia Mejía (Unattached), 14-Jocelyn Orejel (Colorado, USA), 16-Marcela Valera (Atlas FC), 22-Greta Espinoza (Levante, ESP), 23-Christina Murillo (Chicago Red Stars Reserves, USA)

MIDFIELDERS (5): 6-Karla Nieto (Pachuca), 7-Cristina Ferral (Olympique de Marseille, FRA), 10-Stephany Mayor (Thór / KA, ISL), 11-Mónica Ocampo (Pachuca), 17-María Sánchez (Santa Clara, USA)

FORWARDS (5): 8-Ariana Calderón (Thór / KA, ISL), 9-Anisa Guajardo (Sundsvalls DFF, SWE), 18-Kiana Palacios (Unattached), 19-Katie Johnson (Sky Blue FC, USA), 21-Renae Cuéllar (Unattached)

France loses to Canada 1-0

On Monday April 9, France defeated Canada 1:0 in front of 11,058 fans at Roazhan Park, in Rennes, with the home team scoring the winner from a Eugénie Le Sommer (Olympique Lyon) penalty kick in the 10th minute. Another penalty was awarded to France later in the match, in the 78th minute but Stephanie Labbe (Ex-Washington Spirit of the NWSL but now unattached) stopped Amandine Henry's penalty with a diving save (Olympique Lyon and ex-Portland Thorns). Labbe was appearing in her 50th national team game.

Canadian Head Coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller explained after the match: "I think we played on France's terms in the first half. We went down a goal very early in the half and they are a very good transitional team. We had some trouble securing the ball on the transition, but also giving it away when attacking. Things definitely changed after half time and I think we had a much better second half….It was a pretty chance-limited game, with their goal coming after a handball, but we know we need to create much more chances in front of the goal against tier one opposition. That was something we will be taking away from this match going into the home match against Germany in Hamilton this June. We got into some good positions tonight and I do think we put some good pressure on France during the match. We had to seek the pressure after France went up early and I don't think we took enough of the chances in play." Steph Labbe added: "It was tough. We were playing France, one of the best national teams in the world. Defensively we were quite solid and I think this will motivate us to work even harder with the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 in mind."

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

Tim Grainey
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