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The Week in Women's Football: UEFA World Cup qualifiers; Australia vs New Zealand friendlies

This week, we look at the international window from last month, focusing on the UEFA 2023 Women's World Cup Qualifiers to update the 9 groups. We also look at the two recent friendly internationals between 2023 Women's World Cup co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, including the results and rosters.


UEFA 2023 Women's World Cup Qualifiers

France, Sweden and Spain are automatically through to the 2023 Women's World Cup Finals after securing the top spot in their respective groups during the April international window. For the international window last month, we present a quick review of the status of each of the 9 groups, with final matches still to come in June and September

Group A

In Group A, Slovakia did the Irish a favor in pulling two points off of Finland on April 8 in Trnava, with a 1-1 tie which could ultimately cost Finland a chance of a playing for their first ever WWC berth through the playoffs. Defender Tuija Hyyrynen, who has played at Juventus in Italy for five seasons after five years at Umea of Sweden, gave her side an early sixth minute lead, but forward Martina Surnovska (23) scored the tying goal in the 19th minute for Slovakia and that was the end of the scoring. Surnovska is currently with Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic and has played in Slovakia, winning two league titles with Slovan Bratslava, and also had time in Cyprus with Apollon.

Sweden cruised to a 15-0 victory in Georgia on April 7 to stay perfect after six games, 11 points clear of Ireland and 12 of Finland, who do both have two games in hand.

In the Georgia match, Sweden had an incredible eleven first half goals while their four second half goals all came from substitutes. Sweden's goal scorers were: Filippa Angeldahl 3, Stina Blackstenius 2, Lina Hurtig 2, Kosovare Asllani 2, Fridolina Rolfö, Linda Sembrant, Amanda Ilestedt, Jonna Andersson, Rebecka Blomqvist and Olivia Schough (see their clubs below).

On April 12, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 in Gothenburg. Arsenal's Katie McCabe scored the opener for the Irish just before halftime while veteran Kosovari Asllani (Real Madrid) rescued a share of the points 11 minutes from full-time. Finland blasted Georgia the same day in Helsinki 6-0—bouncing back after their surprising 1-1 draw in Slovakia four days earlier—with two goals (including one from the spot) by midfielder Eveliina Summanen (23), who joined Tottenham Hotspur to finish the season after playing in Sweden at Kristianstad last season.

In Group A, Sweden has secured an 2023 Women's World Cup automatic spot as group winners with 19 points from 7 games, while Finland has 10 points and a two-point advantage over the Irish (8 points) but Ireland has played one fewer game. Slovakia (5 points) and Georgia (0 points) each have two games remaining.

Sweden called in 26 players with 8 based in England, 3 in Italy, 3 in Spain, 2 in Germany, 1 in France, 1 in the U.S. while 8 are with clubs in Sweden

Sweden's squad for the WWC Qualifier versus Ireland

Goalkeepers: Jennifer Falk (BK Häcken), Hedvig Lindahl (Atletico Madrid, SPA), Zecira Musovic (Chelsea FC, ENG)

Defenders: Jonna Andersson (Chelsea FC, ENG), Emma Berglund (FC Rosengård), Nathalie Björn (Everton FC, ENG), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea FC, ENG), Hanna Glas (FC Bayern Munich, GER), Amanda Ilestedt (Paris SG, FRA), Emma Kullberg (Brighton, ENG), Amanda Nildén (Juventus, ITA), Linda Sembrant (Juventus, ITA)

Midfielders/Forwards: Filippa Angeldal (Manchester City, ENG), Kosovare Asllani (Real Madrid, SPA), Hanna Bennison (Everton FC, ENG), Stina Blackstenius (Arsenal FC, ENG), Rebecka Blomqvist (Vfl Wolfsburg, GER), Filippa Curmark (BK Häcken), Lina Hurtig (Juventus FC, ITA), Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego Wave FC, U.S.), Madelen Janogy (Hammarby IF), Fridolina Rolfö (FC Barcelona, SPA), Elin Rubensson (BK Häcken), Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (BK Häcken), Olivia Schough (FC Rosengård), Caroline Seger (FC Rosengård)

Coach: Peter Gerhard

For Georgia, Natia Daniela (18) made her national team debut as a 16-year-old at the 2020 European Championship qualifiers. She now has five full caps and plays with WFC Sogdiana in Uzbekistan. Georgia has four players based in Turkey, and one each in Germany, Portugal, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, with the other 15 of the 23-player roster based at home.

Georgia's squad for April WWC Qualifiers:

Goalkeepers: Tatia Gabunia (WFC Lanchkhuti), Teona Sukhashvili (Sivaspor, TUR), Svetlana Gabelaia (WFC Nike)

Slopes: Nino Chkhartishvili (Sivaspor, TUR), Nino Sutidze (WFC Kvartali), Mariam Kalandadze (WFC Lanchkhuti), Tamari Tatuashvili (AMORA, POR), Tamar Kvelidze (Karlsruhe, GER), Irina Khaburzania (WFC Lanchkhuti)

Midfielders/Forwards: Anastasia Bolkvadze (WFC Lanchkhuti), Nino Pasikashvili (Dinamo Sukhumi), Natia Daniela (Sogdiana, UZB), Tatiana Matveeva (FC Kryvbas, UKR), Sopo Narsia (WFC Lanchkhuti), Gvantsa Kadagishvili (Dinamo Sukhumi), Megi Ejibia (Sivaspor, TUR), Ana Tsulaia (Kolkheti), Megi Gotsiridze (WFC Lanchkhuti), Nino Changelia (Dinamo Sukhhumi), Ana Cheminava (ABB Fomget, TUR), Gvantsa Dolidze (WFC Kvartali), Lela Chichinadze (Dinamo Sukhumi), Khatia Chkonia (WFC Lanchkhuti),

Coach: Giorgi Chkhaidze

For Ireland, Vera Pauw selected 27 players for her Republic of Ireland Women's National Team squad for the qualifier away to Sweden in Gothenburg on April 12. The Irish had recent success with wins over Finland and Georgia in WWC qualifiers during this cycle, as well as finishing third in the Pinatar Cup in Spain in February by defeating Wales 1-0 (from a Denise O'Sullivan goal), after losing to Russia 1-0 in the semifinals and defeating Poland 2-1 in the quarterfinals

Amongst those selected in the squad are six players from the SSE Airtricity Women's National League, including Shelbourne duo Chloe Mustaki and Abbie Larkin, who both made their senior debuts last month. There is a first official call-up for midfielder Lily Agg, who qualifies through her Cork-born grandmother. The 28-year-old is from Brighton in England but plays for London City Lionesses and previously trained with the squad in April 2021. Injuries ruled out Manchester United's Diane Caldwell (thigh), Galway WFC (and ex-Glasgow City of Scotland defender) Savannah McCarthy (knee), Glasgow City Niamh Farrelly (ankle), Birmingham City's Emily Whelan (quad) and Glasgow City's Australian-born (and former Aussie U-19 international) Aoife Colvill (knee), while Saoirse Noonan (on loan to Shelbourne from Durham in the English Championship or second tier league) is continuing her recovery from a knee injury.

In total 14 players are with clubs based in England, with 3 in Scotland, 2 from the States and 1 each in Denmark and Germany. From the States, midfielder Denise O'Sullivan is a potent attacking force, having scored 18 goals for Ireland, and has represented her country since 2010.



Republic of Ireland Women's National Team Squadfor April 12 match against Sweden
Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton, ENG), Grace Moloney (Reading, ENG), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion, ENG), Eve Badana (DLR Waves)
Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City, ENG), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool, ENG), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City, ENG), Claire Walsh (Glasgow City, SCO), Chloe Mustaki (Shelbourne), Megan Campbell (Liverpool, ENG), Áine O'Gorman (Peamount United)
Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal, ENG), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage, U.S.), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion, ENG), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa, ENG), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City, ENG), Ciara Grant (Rangers, SCO), Jess Ziu (Shelbourne), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses, ENG), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City, ENG), Isibeal Atkinson (Celtic, SCO)
Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University, U.S.), Kyra Carusa (HB Hoge, DEN), Amber Barrett (FC Koln, GER), Leanne Kiernan (Liverpool, ENG), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths), Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne)


Group B

In Group B, Hungary blasted the Faroe Islands 7-0 in Budapest on April 8, led by Fanni Vago's (Ferencvaros in Hungary) hat trick. In the only other group match during the April window, Barcelona's Jenni Hermoso scored twice, once from the penalty spot to lead visiting Spain to a 2-0 win over Scotland in Glasgow and clinch the Group B title and a Women's World Cup berth (their third in a role) for the Spaniards.

In Group B, Spain leads Group B with 18 points from 6 games while Scotland has 10 from 6 games. Hungary has 9 points from 6 games and Ukraine has 4 points from 4 (which given the war, may not be made up), and the Faroe Islands (0 points) from six games, with 2 goals for and 47 surrendered. Scotland has defeated Hungary twice in group play which should help to ensure the U.K. team second place in the group.



Group C

In Group C, the Netherlands defeated Cyprus 12-0 on April 8 in Groningen, with Viv Miedema (Arsenal) scoring an incredible six goals and provided two assists, while Jill Roord (Wolfsburg) added three goals and one assist. Their match four days later against Belarus, again at home, was postponed.

Iceland's 1-0 win away against the Czech Republic in Teplice on April 12—with Gunny Jonsdottier (Orlando Pride) scoring the winner in the 33rd minute—saw Iceland take the Group C lead with 15 points from 6 games, with the Netherlands second on 14 points (but with a superior goal differential over Iceland thanks to their 12-0 win this window of +24 vs. +17). The Czech Republic is third with 5 points from five games and out of the running for all practical purposes—a surprise given their narrow miss in the playoffs for the 2022 EUROS Finals—followed by Belarus with 4 points from four games and Cyprus with 1 point from seven matches.



Group D

In Group D on April 8, Austria defeated Northern Ireland 3-1, building up a 3-0 lead on second half goals by defender Carina Wenninger (Bayern Munich of Germany), forward Nicole Billa (Hoffenheim of Germany) and midfielder Barbara Dunst (Eintract Frankfurt of Germany) within a ten-minute period that started just after halftime. Nineteen-year-old midfielder Joely Andrews (Glentoran) scored a late consolation goal 5 minutes from the end of the game for the visitors.

The same day, England went to Skopje and came home with a 10-0 win over North Macedonia with Beth Mead scoring 4 times, Ella Toone 3 times and Georgia Stanway had a brace.

On April 12, Austria easily handled Latvia at home 8-0 while Northern Ireland fell to England by a 5-0 scoreline in Belfast, with Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway scoring braces, which officially eliminated the Irish from the 2023 WWC qualifying. The game attracted a record crowd to watch the women's national team in Northern Ireland of

15, 348 at Windsor Park in Belfast.

Luxembourg did the double with two home wins during this window with 3-2 wins over Latvia (with 27-year-old Amy Thompson scoring twice with one assist) and 2-1 over North Macedonia (with Thompson again scoring twice). Thompson played at Stony Brook University in New York in the States and in Germany with SV Bardenbach in the lower leagues and with Saarbrucken and signed with Mamer 32 at home this season; she is her nation's all-time leading scorer with 17 goals

In Group D, England is close to clinching a WWC Finals place in the six-team group with 24 points from 8 games. Austria has created a six-point gap over Northern Ireland (19 points vs. 13), with both teams playing 8 games and Austria still hoping to make their first ever Women's World Cup through the second-place playoffs (or Intercontinental Playoffs). Luxembourg (9 points from 7 games), North Macedonia (3 points from 8 games) and Latvia (0 points from 7 matches) are lagging behind.

For Northern Ireland, head coach Kenny Shiels named 23 players for World Cup qualifiers against the Austrians in Wiener Neustadt on April 8 and the match against England's Lionesses in Belfast's Windsor Park on April 12. The Irish had prepared for the qualifiers with friendlies in Spain against Faroe Islands (3-1 win), Switzerland (2-2 draw) and Romania (1-0 defeat). Shiels made 5 changes to his 23-woman squad from the successful World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia back in November. Back from injuries in 2021 is Rangers Women midfielder Megan Bell, who missed many games last year through injury. Also back were Glentoran Women midfielder Sam Kelly and Crusaders Strikers forward Emily Wilson, who were both injured for the qualifiers against the Macedonians. Also returning after a long-term injury is defender Abbie Magee, who recently moved from Linfield Ladies to Cliftonville Ladies. Her new club mate Toni-Leigh Finnegan is back as well after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Glasgow City of Scotland striker Kerry Beattie and Glentoran Women forward Danielle Maxwell are not included this time due to squad rotation, while veteran Linfield Ladies defender Ashley Hutton is still recovering from a long-term injury. Also missing out for this cycle are Crusaders Strikers pair Maddy Harvey-Clifford and Rachel McLaren, Louise McDaniel (Cliftonville Ladies) and Ciara Watling (Southampton Women in England), who were all in the squad that secured a 9-0 victory against North Macedonia at Seaview in November, following a record-breaking 11-0 victory over the same opposition in Skopje earlier that month.

The squad has 6 players from England, 2 from Scotland, 1 from Sweden and 14 from Northern Ireland. Note: Rebecca Holloway recently signed with Racing Louisville in the States (see: The Week in Women's Football: NWSL 2022 Season Preview - Part 2; Melb Victory win A-League Women's play-offs; - Tribal Football).

Northern Ireland Women squad for April 2022 WWC Qualifiers

Goalkeepers – Jackie Burns (BK Hacken, Sweden), Becky Flaherty (Brighouse Town, ENG).

Defenders – Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Rebecca McKenna (Lewes Women, ENG), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women, ENG), Sarah McFadden (Durham Women, ENG), Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville Ladies), Demi Vance (Rangers Women, SCO), Abbie Magee (Cliftonville Ladies).

Midfielders – Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Caragh Hamilton, Sam Kelly and Joely Andrews (all Glentoran Women), Marissa Callaghan and Toni-Leigh Finnegan (both Cliftonville Ladies), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Women, ENG), Megan Bell (Rangers Women, SCO).

Forwards – Lauren Wade (Glentoran Women), Simone Magill (Everton Women, ENG), Kirsty McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Caitlin McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Emily Wilson (Crusaders Strikers).

Austria's squad of 25 had 12 from Germany, 3 from England and one each from France and Switzerland, with 8 playing with Austrian clubs. Austria's squad was as follows:

Goalkeepers: EL SHERIF Mariella (SK Sturm Graz/0 international matches), KRESCHE Isabella (spusu SKN St. Pölten/1), ZINSBERGER Manuela (Arsenal WFC/ENG/74)

DEFENCE: DEGEN Celina (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim/GER/1/0 goals), FUCHS Lainie (First Vienna FC 1894/0/0), GEORGIEVA Marina (SC Sand/GER/9/0), HANSHAW Verena (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/80/10), NASCHENWENG Katharina (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim/GER/26/2), SCHIECHTL Katharina (SV Werder Bremen/GER/58/6), SCHNADERBECK Viktoria (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG/78/2), WENN CARINGERINA (FC Bayern München/GER/112/5), WIENROITHER Laura (Arsenal WFC/ENG/19/1)

MIDFIELD: DUNST Barbara (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/50/8), EDER Jasmin (spusu SKN St. Pölten/54/1), FEIERSINGER Laura (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/88/16), HICKELSBERGER-FÜLLER Julia (spusu SKN St. Pölten/14/5), HÖBINGER Marie-Therese (FC Zürich/SUI/16/5), KOLB Lisa (SC Freiburg/GER/4/1), PLATTNER Maria (1. FFC Turbine Potsdam/GER/6/0), PUNTIGAM Sarah (Montpellier HSC/FRA/116/16), SCHASCHING Annabel (SK Sturm Graz/2/0), ZADRAZIL Sarah (FC Bayern Munich/GER/91/12)

ATTACK: BILLA Nicole (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim/GER/76/41), ENZINGER Stefanie (spusu SKN St. Pölten/27/6), MAKAS Lisa-Marie (FK Austria Wien/66/18)

Austria's backup or on-call list of 17 players was interesting as well, with 3 in Germany, 2 in Spain and 12 at home.

On call: Livia BRUNMAIR (First Vienna FC 1894/0/0), FELIX Lara (SoccerCoin USV Neulengbach/1/0), GRITZNER Vanessa (SK Sturm Graz/0), GURTNER Andrea (UD Granadilla Tenerife/ESP/0), HILLEBRAND Sophie (SK Sturm Graz/0/0), HORVAT Sabrina (1. FC Köln/GER/1/0), KLEIN Jennifer (spusu SKN St. Pölten/15/1), KRAMMER Kristin (SoccerCoin USV Neulengbach/1), LEITNER Annelie (Zaragoza CFF/ESP/1/0), MAGERL Julia (SK Sturm Graz/2/1), MAIERHOFER Sophie (SK Sturm Graz/22/1), MITTERMAIR Linda (SoccerCoin USV Neulengbach/0), PFANNER Patricia (SoccerCoin USV Neulengbach/0/0), PINTHER Viktoria (SPG SCR Altach/FFC Vorderland/28/1), PURTSCHELLER Lilli (SK Sturm Graz/0/0), TRIENDL Lena (SC Sand/GER/0/0), WEILHARTER Yvonne (RB Leipzig/GER/6/0)

England coach Sarina Wiegman called in the following squad for the games against North Macedonia and Northern Ireland. They are all WSL-based except for Rachel Daly from the Houston Dash in the States.

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash, USA), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Aston Villa, loan from Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)

Forwards: Bethany England (Chelsea) Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City)

Niamh Charles (Chelsea) and Bethany England (Chelsea) withdrew from England duty having tested positive for COVID-19. Both players were asymptomatic following the required pre-camp testing, and have not come into contact with team-mates at St George's Park, their training park. Wiegman initially did not call up any replacements for the 22-player side. Meanwhile, assistant coach Arjan Veurink also tested positive in advance of the squad joining up.
In other news from England's women's national team, Leah Williamson (25) has been named the team captain for this summer's 2022 UEFA Women's EURO. Millie Bright was appointed as vice-captain with Ellen White third in line. Williamson is stepping in for injured Steph Houghton, who first captained England in January 2014 before being confirmed in the role in April of that year. Houghton has not played for England since February 2021 and is working hard on her return from an Achilles injury in a bid to be fit for this summer's EUROs Finals at home.

Williamson, who led the team to success in the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup last month featuring Spain, Canada and Germany, said: "This is an incredibly proud moment for me and my family and I'm honoured to be asked to lead us at the EUROs. Steph Houghton is one of this country's all-time greats and to follow in her footsteps—and all of those special names who have led the team in the past—means so much."

Williamson has skippered England since <a href='/players/sarina-wiegman'>Sarina Wiegman</a>'s appointment last September

Leah Williamson on the ball for England, will now captain the side at this summer's Women EUROs, which her nation will host. Photo courtesy of The FA.

Williamson has skippered England since Sarina Wiegman's appointment last September, added, "Although I will be wearing the armband, I know we have a squad full of leaders who share my pride and passion in playing for our country. Whether I'm captain or not, I will never take anything for granted and will always do my best for England every time I pull on the shirt."

Coach Wiegman said about Williamson, "Leah has been a great leader for us and I know she will continue to set the example we need in her work on and off the pitch. While I know this is significant news for our fans, for me the most important thing is that we work hard in training and perform to the best we can in our matches. The main thing is we are ready for our World Cup qualifiers and then the EURO this summer."



Group E

In Group E, Denmark is still perfect on 24 points from 8 matches after a pair of 2-0 wins (over Malta on April 8 away and at home on April 12 against Azerbaijan) in this six-team group. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia has 15 points from six games, with all their remaining games postponed and likely to be cancelled, so Denmark seems assured of a direct spot to the WWC Finals. Bosnia and Herzegovina are third on 10 points from 8 games and Montenegro is fourth on 9 points from 7 games. Malta has 4 points from 7 games while Azerbaijan has 3 points from 8 games.



Group F

On April 7, an Ada Hegerberg (Lyon of France) hat-trick on her Norway return, after a long self-imposed absence from the national team, ensured a 5-1 win against Kosovo for the unbeaten leaders. Belgium remains within three points thanks to their 5-0 success in Albania. Poland kept pace with a 12-0 win in Armenia as forward Nikola Karczewska (22), who plays at Fleury 91 in France, scored 6 goals with one assist. Poland dropped crucial points on April 12 in Oslo in a 2-1 defeat to Norway, with Karczewska scoring the only goal for Poland.

Norway leads the six-team group (with every team competing 8 matches) on 22 points from 8 games and Belgium is second on 19 points. Poland stands third on 14 points, with Albania fourth on 10 points after six matches, followed by Kosovo with 4 points and Armenia (0 points).



Group G

On April 8, Romania drew Switzerland 1-1 in Bucharest when Romanian defender Maria Ficzay (30) scored near the end of the first half. Ficzay currently plays for Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark and has 1 goal in 16 matches this season; she has mostly played at home with Olimpia Cluj (near the Hungarian border) and in Poland with Medyk Konin. Rahel Kiwic (31) scored in the 77th minute for Switzerland to leave the match level at 1-1—she is playing this season for Zurich after years in Germany with Turbine Potsdam and Duisburg.

On April 12, Italy retook the group lead with a 1-0 win over Switzerland in Thun as Juventus' Cristiana Girelli scored the winner eight minutes from time.

Italy leads the group with 21 points from 8 games while Switzerland (with 1 point from their last two games) has 19 points from 8. Romania is third on 13 points from 7 games while Croatia (7 points from 8 games), Lithuania (4 points from 7 games) and Moldova (0 points from 6 games) lag behind.



Group H

Group H saw a shocking loss for Germany—the upset of the April international window—who were beaten by Serbia 3-2 on April 12, with Serbia's Jovana Damnjanovic (27) of Bayern Munich scoring a second half brace, for whom she has four goals in 15 matches in the Frauen Bundesliga this season. Serbia's win in Stara Pazova combined with their 4-0 home defeat of Israel on April 7 and Portugal's 3-0 loss to Germany away on April 9 resulted in a much tighter Group H table at the top as Germany still leads the 6-team group with 21 points after 8 matches, with second place Serbia 3 points behind with 18 points after 8 matches. The pre-tournament favorites to finish second, Portugal, are third with 16 points from 8 matches while Turkey is fourth on 10 points from 8 games. Israel is fifth with 3 points from 7 games and Bulgaria is pointless after 7 matches.

Serbia is at home to Portugal on September 1 in a crucial match for Serbia's hopes to qualify at least for the Women's World Cup playoffs as one of the best second place teams from the Group stage, as Germany appears to be the ultimate group winner in first, unless the 2016 Olympic Champions and 2003 and 2007 WWC title winners continue to drop points in their final two games, both on the road against Turkey and Bulgaria in early September.



Group I

In Group I, France has qualified for the 2023 WWC in Australia/New Zealand and continued their unbeaten form with a 2-1 win in Wales on April 8 and a 1-0 win over Slovenia four days later at home. They sit on top with 24 points from 8 games and Wales has a slight edge for second place, leading Slovenia by two points (16 points to 14 points and a +16 to +13 goal differential after 8 games for both teams). Greece still has a chance to finish second as they are in fourth with 13 points in 8 games. Kazakhstan and Estonia are pointless after 7 matches each. In September in crucial matches, Greece entertains Wales as Slovenia hosts Kazakhstan and then Wales hosts Slovenia while Greece travels to France, with the hope to pull at least a one point off of the high-flying 2019 WWC host side.



Australia and New Zealand play two competitive friendly games in Australia

The Commonwealth Bank Matildas maintained their unbeaten streak over Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand with a dramatic and shockingly late 2-1 victory at QCB Stadium, Townsville, North Queensland on April 8 during the most recent FIFA international window. The match attracted a nice crowd of 10,779 and was the first ever women's international held in Townsville and North Queensland—on April 8. Emily van Egmond and Sam Kerr both scored in second half additional time to give Australia a late win and prevent an historic Football Ferns win (which would have been only their 10th in 49 matches against their rivals). Against the run of play, defender Anna Green put the visitors ahead in the 32nd minute from a laser shot on a tight angle into the far post side netting for the lead. Forward Caitlin Foord made her 100th appearance for Australia, the 14th women to make their mark. The Football Ferns bent but did not break and just retained their lead in the 69th minute when Claudia Bunge (who won her second league title in two seasons with Melbourne Victory at the end of the 2021/22 season earlier this year) produced a goal-line clearance to deny Hayley Raso's shot on goal.

The enormous waves of attack finally saw the New Zealand defense break in the 3rd minute of injury time as Ellie Carpenter's carried the ball towards goal before cutting it back to a clear Van Egmond. This time the Football Ferns were unable to deny the Matildas as they tied up the game. The home side continue to push for a winner which came in the 95th minute. Steph Catley's corner kick fell to Sam Kerr on the edge of the 6-yard box and she headed the ball home for her 57th goal for the national team. Australia outshot New Zealand 37 to 3, with a healthy advantage of shots on goal (15 vs. 1), corner kicks (13 vs. 1) and possession (71% vs. 29%) The previous match between the two nations was last summer at the Tokyo Olympics, the Matildas again winning 2-1.

Football Australia Head of Women's Football Sarah Walsh (and long-time former international forward and also a women's football analyst on television) says the growth of the game around the country led to the decision to take the game to north-eastern Queensland, the first ever match for the Matildas in North Queensland, "We're actually starting to see a really amazing trend in female participation; you only have to look at the figures in 2020 against 2021. In Townsville alone, there was a 31 per cent increase in female participation. So for us, thinking about where we're hosting our Matildas matches was a perfect ground for us to not only prepare for next year's Women's World Cup in 2023, but also use it as a catalyst to be able to grow female participation in the region, and also hopefully inspire a next generation of Matildas."

In the second match in the capital city of Canberra (their first game in the city since 2013), in the 50th meeting between the two nations, Australia defeated the Football Ferns 3-1 in front of 13,077 fans on April 12. Sam Kerr's brace—which takes her to 59 international goals— and a beautiful Hayley Raso curling shot offset Hannah Wilkinson's (Melbourne City) lone goal for the visitors. Katrina Gorry has looked particularly strong in her return to the national team, only seven months after giving birth to her daughter. She had not played for the Matilda's for almost two years, since Australia's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, held in Australia in the Spring of 2020. Gorry will be playing this spring at Vittsjo with fellow Brisbane Roar Clare Polkinghorne.

At the hour mark, head coach Tony Gustavsson made five changes at one time in the second game. Aivi Luik replaced Clare Polkinghorne in the heart of defense while the Clare Wheeler and Alex Chidiac came in for midfielders Emily van Egmond and Mary Fowler. While Kerr started the game flanked by Foord and Raso, she ended playing with Tameka Yallop and Kyah Simon. Charli Grant also replaced Alanna Kennedy five minutes later. The Matilda held the edge in shots (23 vs. 5), shots on target (8 vs. 3), corner kicks (8 vs. 0) and possession (65% vs. 35%).

Head coach Tony Gustavsson was pleased with the three goals scored within the first 35 minutes in the final game of the series, "We always want to get on the front foot and score early goals in the first 15 minutes. Tonight, from the fifth minute until our third goal, we were playing phenomenal football and I liked the variation of how we scored goals. We're good at transition, we're good at breaking down organised teams who park the bus, and we're good at set plays."

Tony Gustavsson has seen some recent progress from his team with the Women's World Cup now just over a year away and is encouraged, "Internally, we have seen the progress and the journey for a while now, even if the results might not have been there. The progress began with the first game against Brazil (win and draw) when we started to see bits and pieces of things that we wanted to do. It wasn't perfect but we saw 15 minutes here and there of passages that were really good in that game. Also, against the USA (a loss and a draw), even though we lost 3-0, those last 30 minutes were really good against a really good U.S. team. After the USA series we played pretty well in the Asian Cup but we lost a little bit of faith and belief in what we were doing in that second half against Korea [Republic]. So, when we came back into this camp, we resolved to keep believing in what we're doing even more and to stay loyal to that process. Then we needed to have a little more cohesion, chemistry, and continuity in what we're doing. We played well in that first game against New Zealand but we didn't capitalise on our chances so we spent a lot of time doing reviews in training and talking about the final pass and finishing. The players were 100% focused on that final third tonight, especially in the first half."


Australia roster

The squad consisted of 22 players who contested the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup with the addition of experienced midfielder Katrina Gorry. Meanwhile recently crowned 2022 A-League Women's Champions, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin (both joining a Swedish season for the 2022 season), have also made the final roster following Melbourne Victory's back-to-back championship win. A-League Women's Premiers Sydney FC are represented by forwards Cortnee Vine and Remy Siemsen. With this squad, ten play in England, six in Sweden, two in France, one each in Italy, Denmark and the U.S. with two based in the A-League Women at home.

Tony Gustavsson said, "Naturally, we were all disappointed at how our AFC Women's Asian Cup campaign concluded in January. Following our technical review, these April internationals are an opportunity for us to start implementing the lessons we have learned from our experiences over the past 12 months with only the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 on the horizon….It is with this consideration that the 23 players have been selected as we work to start building consistency in performance and historically, we know that is aided by consistency in selection. Over the past year we have had a close look at over 75 players in high performance environments but as we focus in on the FIFA Women's World Cup preparation, it is essential for us to zero in on our best combinations and providing them time together."

Since meeting in Australia's first women's "A" international match in 1979, Australia and New Zealand have now faced each other 50 times in their history with the Matildas leading the head-to-head 33-8-9 (W-D-L).

Name

Position

Club

Caps (goals)

Junior Club / Member Fed

Mackenzie ARNOLD

Goalkeeper

West Ham United (ENG)

28 (0)

Burleigh / Football QLD

Ellie CARPENTER

Back

Olympique Lyon (FRA)

57 (3)

Cowra and District / Football NSW

Steph CATLEY

Back

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

100 (3)

East Bentleigh, SE Cougars / Football Victoria

Kyra COONEY-CROSS

Midfielder

Melbourne Victory/Hammarby (SWE)

16 (0)

Ballarat City / Football Victoria

Caitlin FOORD

Forward

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

99 (22)

Warilla Wanderers / Football NSW

Mary FOWLER

Forward

Montpellier (FRA)

24 (7)

Leichhardt / Football QLD

Emily GIELNIK

Forward

Aston Villa (ENG)

52 (11)

Redlands United / Football QLD

Katrina GORRY

Midfielder

Brisbane Roar / Vittsjö GIK (SWE)

78 (15)

Mt Gravatt Hawks / Football QLD

Charlotte GRANT

Back

FC Rosengård (SWE)

4 (0)

Cumberland United Women's FC / Football South Australia

Alanna KENNEDY

Back

Manchester City (ENG)

105 (8)

Campbelltown Cobras / Football NSW

Sam KERR

Forward

Chelsea WFC (ENG)

108 (49)

Western Knights / Football West

Aivi LUIK

Back

Pomigliano (ITA)

35 (1)

Palm Beach SC / Football QLD

Teagan MICAH

Goalkeeper

FC Rosengård (SWE)

9 (0)

Brisbane Blue, Brisbane Central / Football QLD

Courtney NEVIN

Back

Melbourne Victory

10 (0)

Oakville Ravens / Football NSW

Clare POLKINGHORNE

Back

Vittsjö GIK (SWE)

141 (12)

Wynnum Wolves, Capalaba / Football QLD

Hayley RASO

Forward

Manchester City (ENG)

60 (8)

Banora Point / Football QLD

Remy SIEMSEN

Forward

Sydney FC/AIK Fotboll (SWE)

4 (0)

Manly United / Football NSW

Kyah SIMON

Forward

Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)

109 (28)

Quakers Hill, Hills Brumbies / Football NSW

Emily VAN EGMOND

Midfielder

San Diego Wave (USA)

116 (28)

Dudley-Redhead / Northern NSW Football

Cortnee VINE

Forward

Sydney FC

3 (0)

Peninsula Power FC / Football QLD

Clare WHEELER

Midfielder

Fortuna Hjørring (DEN)

8 (0)

Adamstown Rosebud / Northern NSW Football

Lydia WILLIAMS

Goalkeeper

Arsenal WFC (ENG)

97 (0)

Tuggeranong, Woden Valley / Capital Football

Tameka YALLOP

Midfielder

West Ham United (ENG)

103 (12)

Mudgeeraba / Football QLD



New Zealand Squad

Ford Football Ferns head coach Jitka Klimková named a 23-player squad for the two-game regional series against Australia (see below). Four-cap Fern Grace Jale returned to the squad for the first time since 2018 following an outstanding first professional season with Wellington Phoenix. She scored six goals to finish the side's top goal scorer in its inaugural A-League Women season.

The following players were unavailable for selection: CJ Bott has a hip injury (she joined Leicester City in England in March of this year after playing last season in Norway with Valerenga; Leicester should avoid the drop at the end of the WSL season), while Abby Erceg (North Carolina Courage) and goalkeeper Anna Leat (West Ham United in England after finishing college soccer at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.) are focusing on their clubs at this time.

Klimková was pleased that her squad was playing together so quickly after the SheBelieves Cup Tournament in February in the States, where the squad struggled mightily, "We want to continue taking steps forward. We took some big steps forward during the Canada and Korea Republic tours, and then as we saw in the SheBelieves Cup [which many felt was the Ferns worse comprehensive string of performances for many years], sometimes you have to take a step back to take another couple of steps forward. It's part of the journey, and with the short turnaround between the SheBelieves Cup and our series against Australia we have a great opportunity ahead. While we're still exploring our player base, this tour will be focused on building on our team's culture. We want to be mentally tougher when we encounter adversity. Every team faces challenges, I think we can respond quicker and more positively when one of us makes a mistake. We know when we give up a goal, it is often more than one player's mistake, so we collectively need to respond better and more quickly. If we can improve in this area, it will be very impactful throughout the 90 minutes. We also want to focus on possession and breaking lines, as well as improving our decision making and building connections and variations in how we play in the final third."

The squad has eight playing in Australia's A-League Women, four from the U.S. (two in colleges in the US), three in England and one each in Germany, Sweden, Scotland, Iceland, and Norway, while three are currently unattached and without a club.

The Ford Football Ferns squad for Australia series (player; club; caps/goals):

Lily Alfeld; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ (0/0)
Victoria Esson; SC Sand, Germany (5/0)
Erin Nayler; Umeå IK, Sweden (76/0)
Elizabeth Anton; Perth Glory FC, Australia (7/0)
Katie Bowen; North Carolina Courage, USA (80/3)
Claudia Bunge; Melbourne Victory FC, Australia (7/0)
Anna Green; Unattached (78/7)
Meikayla Moore; Liverpool FC, England (51/3)
Ali Riley; Angel City FC, USA (143/1)
Rebekah Stott; Melbourne City FC, Australia (84/4)
Ashleigh Ward; Actonians LFC, England (1/0)
Olivia Chance; Celtic FC, Scotland (28/1)
Daisy Cleverley; Unattached (19/2)
Betsy Hassett; Stjarnan, Iceland (128/14)
Grace Jale; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ (4/2)
Ria Percival; Tottenham Hotspur FC, England (160/15)
Malia Steinmetz; Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Australia (5/0)
Ava Collins; St John's University, USA (4/0)
Jacqui Hand; Unattached (6/1)
Gabi Rennie; Arizona State University, USA (10/2)
Emma Rolston; Avaldsnes IL, Norway (10/6)
Paige Satchell; Sydney FC, Australia (26/2)
Hannah Wilkinson; Melbourne City FC, Australia (103/26)

.

Sydney FC defender Ally Green joins a New Zealand national team training camp

Sydney FC defender Ally Green (23), who just finished her fourth season for Sydney FC and has been capped by Australia at the U-20 level, has announced that she would join the New Zealand national team camp ahead of two matches with Australia in April. If the camp goes well, she plans to petition FIFA to play for the Football Ferns, for which she qualifiers through her Auckland-born mother.


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 yours copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey


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