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The Week in Women's Football: European World Cup qualifiers reach conclusion; CONCACAF regional finalists decided;

This week, we look at some key Women's World Cup qualifiers in Europe at the end of August and review the CONCACAF's Caribbean and Central American qualifying tournament, with 5 teams advancing to join Canada, Mexico and the U.S. at the regional finals in October.

UEFA World Cup Qualifiers Come to a Conclusion This Week

After the matches on August 30, 31 and September 1, England from Group 1 joined Italy from Group 6 and Spain from Group 7—who both qualified in June—as 2019 Women's World Cup direct qualifiers. England finished third in their best ever WWC finish in 2015 and secured their spot in a tension filled 3-0 win over Wales in Newport on August 31. Wales entered the match with a one point lead over The Three Lionesses after 7 matches, while England had only played 6, with a game still to play on September 4 in Kazakhstan, but which is now academic. Toni Duggan (Barcelona of Spain) scored England's first goal in the 57th minute, with Jill Scott scoring three minutes later and Nikita Parris (both Manchester City) netting the third in the 69th minute. Their club teammate, Karen Bardsley, who was raised in the U.S. and played at Cal State-Fullerton and for Sky Blue FC in WPS, recorded the shutout, her fifth in six UEFA World Cup Qualifiers this cycle.

In Group 2, Scotland jumped back into the race for first by defeating Switzerland 2-1 in Paisley on August 30, with all the goals coming in the first 7 minutes as Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea (2nd minute) and Kim Little of Arsenal (6th minute) put the Scots in a commanding early lead, while Lara Dickenmann (Wolfsburg of Germany) replied for the Swiss in the 7th minute. A record crowd for a women's national team game of 4,098 in Paisley watched the key match in Group 2. Both sides are tied at the top of the group with 6 wins and 1 loss but the Swiss has a clear advantage on goal difference (+17 to +10) with Scotland in Albania on September 4 and Switzerland visiting Poland. The second place finisher in this group should advance to the four team playoff for the best placed second place sides in the seven groups, as long as other group results go as anticipated.

In Group 4 on August 30, Sweden defeated Ukraine 3-0 after shockingly losing 1-0 on the road to the same opponent in June. In the other key game of the group the same day Denmark rescued their Women's World Cup hopes with a late injury time goal by Manchester City forward Nadia Nadim to tie Croatia 1-1 at home. For Sweden, Elin Rubensson (Kopparbergs/Gothenburg) and Magdalena Ericsson (Chelsea of England) scored four minutes apart in the 34th and 38th minute while Kosovare Asllani (Linkoping) scored the third just after half time. In Viborg, Croatia took the lead on the hour mark through Izabela Lojna (26) of Osijek, and were seconds away from an earthshaking victory of their own until Nadim's late equalizer. It was bottom side Croatia's second point in seven matches, after a 1-1 tie on the road versus the Ukraine last September.

In Group 6 on August 30, Portugal's Vanessa Marques of Braga (22) scored a first half brace while Diana Silva of Sporting (19) scored two goals in the last few minutes in the 7-0 defeat of Moldova while in Group 1, Russia defeated Kazakhstan 3-0 in Moscow, with Nadezhda Smirnova of CSKA Moscow (22) scoring twice.

In Group 3 on August 31, the Republic of Ireland defeated Northern Ireland at home 4-0, with braces by Shelbourne's Leanne Kiernan (19) and Katie McCabe (22) of Glasgow City in Scotland. In the other Group 3 match that day, Norway went to Slovakia and came away with a 4-0 victory, with Lisa-Marie Utland (who joined Rosengard of Sweden from Roa of Norway recently) scoring a hat trick. Norway hosts the Netherlands on September 4 for the battle for first and second in the group. Netherlands leads Norway by 1 point (19 to 18) and a 4 goal advantage in goal difference (+21 to +17) with Netherlands advancing with a win or a tie, while Norway has to win to advance automatically to France 2019. The second place side in this group should advance to the play-ins for the final spot.

On September 1, Germany went to Reykjavik and came home with a 2-0 win in Group 5, a reversal of their 3-2 loss to Iceland last fall at home. Germany had 68% of the ball possession and outshot the home team 21-6 (7-2 for shots on goal). Germany now leads the group by 2 points (18 vs. 16) entering the last set of matches on September 4, in which Germany travels to bottom side and pointless Faroe Islands, while Iceland hosts the Czech Republic (13 points). The Czechs pulled two points off of Iceland at home in an earlier game and could end up tied with Iceland for second if they win; however they trail in goal differential by 4 goals (+12 to +16) for Iceland. A tie or loss by Iceland could damage their chance to make the playoffs for the last UEFA berth, while a 3 goal loss puts them into third and out of any hope for a 2019 World Cup berth.

CONCACAF—Five Teams Advance to Gold Cup/Women's World Cup Regional Finals

In the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) finals held from August 25 through September 2 in Kingston, Jamaica, five clubs played one game against each of the other teams to send 3 to the regional finals in the U.S. in October: Antigua, Barbuda and Bermuda, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

In the first round on August 25, Kayla Taylor scored a hat trick as Trinidad and Tobago defeated Cuba 3-2, with Jennifer Ramos Lopez and Maristania Mengana Perez replying for Cuba: Perez's goal in the last minute cut the deficit to 3-2 but Trinidad and Tobago held on for the win. In the second match of the day, Jamaica rolled to a comfortable 9-0 win over Antigua and Barbuda. Khadija Shaw (ex-University of Tennessee) had a hat trick and two assists for the Reggae Girlz.

On Monday August 27, Cuba blasted Antigua and Barbuda 7-0 with braces from Maria Isabel Perez (along with 3 assists), Lilian Perez (1 assist) and Rachel Pelaez (1 assist), while Jamaica dispatched Bermuda 4-0,

On Wednesday August 29, Trinidad and Tobago defeated Antigua and Barbuda 5-0

with two more goals by Kayla Taylor, two assists by defender Liama Hinds (ex-University of Connecticut) and single goals from veteran professionals Tasha St. Louis (Sweden and U.S. semipro teams) and Kenya Cordner (who has played in the NWSL with the Seattle Reign, in Australia where she played 5 games and won a W-League title with the Brisbane Roar, England and currently with Sandviken in Norway); Janine Francois also scored. Cuba defeated Bermuda 2-0 with goals by Lilian Perez and Maria Perez.

On August 31, Bermuda blasted Antigua and Barbuda 5-0 to leave A&B at the bottom of the table after 4 games, with 0 goals and 26 allowed. Deshae Darrell scored twice for Bermuda, including once from the penalty spot. Darrell won a national title at Brookhaven Community College in Farmers Branch, Texas (near Dallas) in 2017. Jamaica defeated Trinidad and Tobago 4-1 in the nightcap, with Khadija Shaw scoring two goals and one assist. With one game remaining, Jamaica leads the table with 9 points, followed by T&T and Cuba with 6 points each. Bermuda has 3 points and could still take one of the top three spots but would have to beat Trinidad and Tobago by 3 goals in their final match. Jamaica defeating Cuba in the other game on September 2 wouldn't hurt their cause either, though Cuba has a +8 goal differential to Bermuda's -1. However, that scenario didn't take place as Trinidad and Tobago shut out the Bermudans 3-0 on September 2 to ensure that T&T, Jamaica and Cuba all advanced to the Gold Cup Finals. For T& T, Kenya Cordner scored twice and Kayla Taylor added one more goal to take her tournament tally to 6 goals, second behind Jamaica's Khadija Shaw. Shaw scored two goals in the tournament's final game as Jamaica won the CFU title with a 6-1 dismantling of Cuba. Chinyelu (Chiny) Asher also scored a brace; Asher was raised in the U.S., played at Purdue University and then in Kazakhstan with BIIK, and won a title last season in Colombia with Independiente Santa Fe. Jamaica (12 points), T&T (9 points) and Cuba (6 points) all move on to the CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals, while Bermuda (3 points) and A&B (0 points) hopefully can build on their experience in the Jamaica tournament for the future.

In Bradenton, Florida at the IMG Academy—a substitute venue for Nicaragua—the Central American Zone qualifying finals were held from August 27 through August 31. On August 27, 2015 WWC Finalist Costa Rica destroyed El Salvador 11-0, with Sky Blue FC's Rachel Rodriquez providing 1 goal and 3 assists, while Shirley Cruz (33)—who has played in France for a decade and is currently at Paris St. Germain—added 2 goals and 3 assists and Melissa Herrera (21) had 3 goals and 1 assist. Herrera played with FC Indiana in the UWS in 2016 and then Independiente Santa Fe in Colombia. In the other game, Panama started the tourney with a 4-0 defeat of Nicaragua, with Karla Riley scoring twice. On August 29, Panama beat El Salvador 6-2 with three goals and an assist from Kenia Rangel and Costa Rica defeated Nicaragua 4-1, to send both sides through to the CONCACAF Finals in October. On August 31, Costa Rica defeated Panama 3-1, with both teams already qualified, but the Ticas won the regional title while El Salvador and Nicaragua tied 2-2 for each team's only point in the three game round robin. Martha Silva of Nicaragua rescued the tie with two goals within 2 minutes late in the game to pull back El Salvador's two goal advantage, while Costa Rica's Rachel Rodriguez scored twice and assisted on the third goal while Erika Hernandez scored the lone goal for the Panamanians.

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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Tim Grainey

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