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The Week in Women's Football: World Cup qualifiers; Ireland stun Matildas; USWNT obliterate Paraguay

This week we look at UEFA first round matches of 2023 Women's World Cup Qualifiers during the international window—with more in-depth looks at the Kosovo-Albania game, Northern Ireland's strong start in Group D and the Netherlands four points under their new head coach from the NWSL. We also examine the U.S. versus Paraguay and Brazil versus Argentina friendlies as well as the Republic of Ireland's stunning 3-2 home friendly victory over Australia.

UEFA 2023 Women's World Cup Opening Qualifiers

Thursday September 16 Matches

In Group F Albania tied Kosovo 1-1 in a Balkans derby between two sides who share many cultural, historical and economic ties, with Megi Doci (43rd minute) giving Albania the lead from the penalty spot but 24-year old attacker Valentine Limani, who plays with Eintracht Frankfurt of Germany, tied it up in the 72nd minute in Elbasan, Albania. Limani, German-born, has been with Frankfurt since 2013/14, with most of her appearances coming with their second division side. Doci, also 24, plays club ball at home with Vllaznia and has won five consecutive league titles.

Kosovo's roster for the 2023 WWC opening qualifiers includes seven players from clubs in Germany (many at lower tier leagues), two in Switzerland, and one each in Austria and Italy.

KOSOVO Roster for the 2023 September UEFA WWC Matches

1.FLORENTINA KOLGECI (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
3.BLERTA SMAILI (Vfb Oberturkheim, Germany)
4.LIRIDONE SYLA (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
5.LUMBARDHA MISINI (KFF Hajvalia, Kosovo)
6.DONJETA HALILAJ (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
7.MODESTA UKA (Sk Sturm Graz Damen, Austria)
8.LEONORA EJUPI (DSC Arminia Bielfeld, Germany)
9.AGNESA GASHI (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
10.DONIKA GRAJQEVCI (FC Carl Zeiss Jena, Germany)
11.KALTRINA BIQKAJ (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
12.ERJONA EMERLLAHU (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
13.FATLINDA RAMAJ (KFF Hajvalia, Kosovo)
14.ERËLETA MEMETI (SC Freiburg, Germany)
15.MARIGONE TAHIRI (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
16.EDONA KRYEZIU (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)
17.BESIJANA REÇICA (FFC Recklinghausen 2003, Germany)
18.RITA OLLURI (KFF Kosova VR, Kosovo)
19.VIOLA AVDULI (FC Zurich Frauen, Switzerland)
20.ARGNESA REXHEPI (FC Zurich Frauen, Switzerland)
21.BESARTA HISENAJ (SG 99 Andernach, Germany)
22.EDONA KASTRATI (Vicenza Calcio Femminile, Italy)
23.VALENTINA LIMANI (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany)
24.FLETA MUSAJ (KFF Mitrovica, Kosovo)

Kosovo's WNT in practice ahead of their September 15, 2021 Women's World Cup qualifying match with Albania. Photo courtesy of the Kosovo Football Federation.

For Albania their roster includes some players who were born in Kosovo and/or have played club ball there as well as one American-born forward now playing in Norway and a Swiss-based player.

Albania Women's National Team


Viona Rexhepi plays in Kosovo with Mitrovica, where she has won one league title after one in 2016/17 with Hajvalia.


Arbenita Curraj plays at Vllaznia in Albania, where she was won three titles but previously played in Kosovo—where she was born—with Hajvalia and won a league crown in 2016/17

Endrina Elezaj plays in Kosovo with Mitrovica, and was born there.


Megi Doçi (see above)

Sara Maliqi plays at home with Vllaznia

Luçije Gjini at Vllaznia

Vanesa Levenaj with Vllaznia

Qendresa Krasniqi plays with Vllaznia but also played for Hajvalia in Kosovo, where she was born.


Esi Lufo is contracted with Vllaznia

Mimoza Hamidi (23) is playing in Switzerland this season with Basel after an off-season move from FC Zurich, and was born in what is now Southern Serbia.

Kristina Maksuti (28) is playing in the 2021 season with Klepp in Norway, where she has one goal in 9 games, and was on the roster for the North Carolina Courage in 2020 but saw no regular game action. Klepp is in 11th place in the league on 7 points with 6 games left before the Relegation round in the 10 team Toppserien. She previously played in Germany with Duisburg in 2019-20 and scored 3 goals in 18 games, and in 2018 in Iceland with HK/Vikingur (1 goal in 4 games). She played at Fordham University in New York. In 2019 she was one of 15 Americans on the Lugano side and led the league with 18 goals in 26 games in a very close race to the Golden Boot, as well as clinching a league title and a berth the WCL the next season. Her 18 goals just eclipsed her Lugano teammate and American Cara Curtin (17), Swiss international forward Fabienne Humm of FC Zurich, German import Irina Butsch of Lucerne and Swiss international forward Maeva Sarrasin of Servette—all on 17 goals. Next week, will have an interview with Kristina Maksuti about her European club career and the emotional atmosphere of an Albania-Kosovo international, with so many players facing friends and teammates. Her family also hails originally from Kosovo.

In Group H, Turkey and Portugal tied 1-1 in Alanya, with 31-year-old forward Yagmur Uraz (Besiktas and who has won three league titles one at her current club and one each at Atasehir Belediyespor of Instanbul and Konak Belediyespor of Izmir) opened the account for the home side, before Kansas City NWSL's Jessica Silva tied it just before the hour mark. Both teams missed out on qualifying for next summer's EURO Finals in England; this draw could be crucial in the final table and leaving intense pressure will be on their return match next September.

In other games that day, blowouts saw Denmark defeat Malta 7-0 in Group E and a pair of 10-0 scorelines for Spain over Faroe Islands in Group B—as Amaiur Sarriegi (20) of Real Sociedad scored four times in the comprehensive win—and Norway over Armenia in Group F—with Caroline Graham Hansen (Barcelona) and Lisa-Marie Utland (Rosenborg of Norway, who played 20 games at Reading in England in 2019/20) scoring hat-tricks, the latter as a substitute to start the second half.

Friday September 17 Matches

Seventeen games were scheduled on September 17 with one postponement. In Group A, Georgia was to host the Republic of Ireland in Tbilisi but the match was postponed the previous week, on September 8. The FAI requested the postponement as Georgia is on the UK government's COVID list, so their UK-based players would have to quarantine on their return from Georgia. The game will be played next summer; next for the Irish a home friendly against Australia (see below) during this FIFA international window and then they will meet top seed and this summer's Olympic Silver medalists Sweden in Dublin on October 21, in what will now be the first WWC qualifier for the Irish.

England won 8-0 over North Macedonia in Southampton, with braces from Ellen White (Manchester City) and Beth England (Chelsea), who was a substitute for the last 19 minutes, in Group D. Also in Group D. Austria won away to Latvia 8-1. In other blowouts, France defeated Greece 10-0 in Patras in Group I with a hat-trick from Marie Katoto and a brace by Onema Grace Geyoro (both Paris St. Germain). Wales defeated Kazakhstan 6-0 in Llanelli with Kayleigh Green (Brighton and Hove Albion in the WSL) scoring a brace, with three of the goals from Wales coming in the last 20 minutes, with two in injury time in Group I.

Belarus had a healthy winning margin in Minsk with their 4-1 victory over Cyprus in Group C. Slovenia won 4-0 on the road over Estonia in Parnu in Group I. Romania were triumphant over Croatia 2-0 at home in Mogosoaia in a Group G match. Also in Group G, Switzerland defeated Lithuania 2-1 at home in Thun.

In Group D, Northern Ireland kept their momentum going from making next summer's EURO Finals for the first time in England with a 4-0 home win over Luxembourg in Larne. This match was Luxembourg's first ever fixture in a full qualifying stage for a major tournament.

Northern Ireland senior women's team manager Kenny Shiels strengthened his side for their first two FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifiers with some key returnees from recent squad selections, including Liverpool attacking midfielder Rachel Furness, who has recovered from the broken leg she sustained in the first leg of the Women's Euro 2022 play-off against Ukraine back in April.. Demi Vance of Rangers, an experienced full back/midfielder, is back from an ACL injury she picked up in a Euro qualifier against Belarus last November.

Also returning are Glentoran Women attacking midfielder Caragh Milligan from a long-term injury and Cliftonville Ladies striker Caitlin McGuinness, who last featured in a squad back in December. Cliftonville Ladies defender Kelsie Burrows, Glentoran Women striker Danielle Maxwell and young Crusaders Strikers goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford were called in as well.

Some players missing due to injuries from this Northern Ireland squad include Cliftonville Ladies defender Toni-Leigh Finnegan, Rangers Women midfielder Megan Bell and Linfield Ladies pair Ashley Hutton and Abbie Magee, while Everton Women striker Simone Magill is also out.

Other players missing out—all were in the squad chosen to face Scotland in early summer—include the Glentoran trio of Joely Andrews, Sam Kelly and Casey Howe along with Cliftonville defender Fi Morgan and Lisburn Rangers defender Ella Haughey.

After the two games this month, Kenny Shiels will prepare his side for a trip to Wembley where they are due to face top seeds England on October 23 and then return home for a critical qualifier against Austria, the second seeds in the group, on October 26.

The full Northern Ireland roster, of which seven of the 23 play in England, one in Scotland and one is finishing University in the States, for the Luxembourg and Latvia qualifiers includes:

Goalkeepers: Jackie Burns (Lee University in the States/Glentoran Women), Becky Flaherty (Huddersfield Town Women—England), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (Crusaders Strikers).

Defenders: Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Rebecca McKenna (Lewes Women—England), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women—England), Laura Rafferty (Southampton Women—England), Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville Ladies), Demi Vance (Rangers Women—Scotland).

Midfielders: Marissa Callaghan and Louise McDaniel (both Cliftonville Ladies), Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron and Caragh Hamilton (all Glentoran Women), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Women—England), Sarah McFadden (Durham Women—England), Ciara Watling (Southampton Women—England).

Forwards: Kerry Beattie, Danielle Maxwell and Lauren Wade (all Glentoran Women), Caitlin McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Kirsty McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Emily Wilson (Crusaders Strikers).

There were some narrow wins on September 17 including:

In Group B Scotland had an important road win to start off their bid to make a second consecutive WWC with a 2-0 against Hungary in Budapest, with a first half goal by Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea) in the 17th minute and substitute Martha Thomas (Manchester United after transferring from West Ham this summer) doubling the margin in the 73rd minute.

In other matches, Italy beat Moldova 3-0 at home in Tieste in Group G and Russia defeated Azerbaijan 2-0 in Moscow in Group E

A major upset occurred in Group E when Montenegro, ranked 98th by FIFA in the latest women's national team ratings in September, 2021, triumphed in a 3-2 road victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica More, with the home side currently ranked 58th in FIFA's global rankings.

Belgium had to fight back for a 1-1 tie against Poland in Gdansk in Group F in another surprise result. Ewa Pajor (Wolfsburg) gave Poland the lead in the 40th minute before veteran defender Janice Cayman (Olympique Lyon and who has played in France for over a decade with OL, Montpellier and Juvisy, along with a brief, three game spell in 2016 with the Western New York Flash) levelled the match with a goal 11 minutes from time.

In Group A, Sweden narrowly survived on the road in Senec against Slovakia 1-0 on a 10th minute goal from Fridolina Rolfo (Barcelona of Spain, who has 1 goal in 2 games with her new club after a move from Wolfsburg in Germany in the off-season).

In Group C, Netherlands tied the Czech Republic 1-1 at home in Groninger, in English-born head coach Mark Parsons debut, with forward Andrea Staskova (21) of Juventus in Italy giving the visitors the lead in the 47th minute. Arsenal's Viv Miedema spared the Dutch the embarrassment of an opening WWC Qualifying campaign home loss with a goal 7 minutes from time. Parsons (who has been coaching the Portland Thorns for years in the NWSL) said, "The only disappointing thing about the match is the end result. The energy, dedication and composure of the players was outstanding. The Czech Republic is tactically the strongest opponent in this group. You know it's going to be difficult if you don't score early." Parsons did implement a counter-pressing to immediately put the opponent under pressure when they win the ball, and did not see an undue amount of concern for the rest of the group matches, "The fact that it remained at 1-1 today does not cause extra pressure…There is pressure every game because we are a top team, but that drives this group. There will be no extra pressure on Tuesday. That pressure is always there." The goalscorer Mediema added, "You want to make a good start with the new coach, but today was not good enough. We just got together, but that shouldn't be an excuse. Even though they put a good pot on the mat tonight, we just have to win here."

Saturday September 18 Match

On September 18 in Group H, Germany easily dispatched Bulgaria 7-0, with braces from Lea Schuller, Lina Magull and second half substitute Linda Dallmann (all from Bayern Munich), with a single tally from Tabea Wassmuth (who joined Wolfsburg for 2021-22 after years at Hoffenheim).

Sunday September 19 Match

On September 19 Israel opened its Group H campaign versus Portugal at home, with the visitors needing to rebound from their opening match road tie with Turkey. Portugal stunned the home side with two goals in the first seven minutes from Telma Encarnacao (19)—who has played with Maritimo since the 2017-18 season—and Dolores Silva, with Sporting Braga, after a season with Atletico Madrid and years in Germany with Jena and Duisburg, scored from the penalty spot after Jessica Silva was fouled in the penalty area. Second half goals from Diana Gomes (23) from Sporting Braga and defender Carole Costa, in her second year with Benfica after three seasons at Lisbon neighbors Sporting and years in Germany, gave Portugal a 4-0 win, with forward Suzane Pires (29) with Maritimo—who played with the Boston Breakers in the NWSL in 2015 following her collegiate career at Southern Connecticut State University and who was born in Brazil—assisting on the final two goals.

Tuesday, September 21 Matches

A mammoth 22 games were staged this day, and we will review them by their Groups, and look at the early Group leaders.

Group A

Finland started this campaign nicely with a 2-1 home win in Turku over Slovakia, with goals from Adelina Engman (Vaxjo in Sweden after one season in Montpellier in 2020-21 and two years before that with Chelsea in England) and Ria Oling (Rosengard of Sweden, who joined this season after two years at Vaxjo and two previous campaigns in Denmark with Brondby) offsetting Maria Mikolajova's (St. Polten of Austria) equalizer for Slovakia in the 63rd minute.

Sweden handled Georgia 4-0 in Gothenburg with two late first half goals from Ingrid Angeldal (Manchester City) and Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea) (40' and 45+4' minute, respectively) and two late second half goals from Caroline Seger (Rosengard), the first a penalty in the 84th minute and the second three minutes into injury time.

Sweden (6 points) and Finland (3 points) are the undefeated pacesetters in Group A, but they must be nervously watching over their shoulders after the Republic of Ireland's impressive friendly win over Australia 3-2 the next day (see below).

Group B

Spain enjoyed their trip to Budapest with a 7-0 victory, with braces from Esther Gonzalez (in her first season at Real Madrid following two years with Levante), Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona) and Amaiur Sarriegi (Real Sociedad). Sarriegi is tied with Germany's Lea Schuller for the Golden Boot so far in the UEFA qualifiers with six goals.

Scotland defeated Faroe Islands 7-1 in Glasgow with Chloe Arthur (26) of Aston Villa scoring a brace and 19-year-old Maria Biskopsto (KI Klaksvik) scoring a rare goal for the Faroes in the 49th minute, to cut the deficit to 4-1.

Spain and Scotland are the early joint leaders in Group B—both on six points—and their two matches will be critical in determining the winner of this group which will capture a direct bid to the 2023 Australia-New Zealand Women's World Cup Finals.

Group C

Czech Republic blasted Cyprus 8-0 at home in Liberec, with braces from Andrea Staskova (Juventus) and Lucie Martinkova (Sparta Prague, who has over 100 caps for her country). The Czech side is definitely one to watch during these qualifiers.

Netherlands used a first half goal by Danielle van de Donk in the 23rd minute and a 65th minute goal by Jackie Groenen to take 3 points from Iceland (2-0) in new coach Mark Parsons first win in charge, which was a nice result in a venue that is not always friendly to visitors. Van de Donk joined Olympique Lyonnais in France this season after six seasons in the WSL with Arsenal, while Groenen is in her third season with Manchester United after time with FFC Frankfurt, MSV Duisburg and SGS Essen in Germany, along with two seasons at Chelsea in the WSL in 2014 and 2015.

This is shaping up to be an interesting group with Czech Republic and Netherlands joint top on four points, with Belarus on 3 points after 1 game. The Netherlands are overwhelming favorites to win the group, but the Czech side was hugely impressive in the last EURO's qualifying—just missing out on a Finals spot to Switzerland on penalty kicks (2-3) after a 2-2 tie over two legs. They could take advantage of any more Dutch slip-ups or difficulty in the coaching transitions with Parsons, especially in the return leg in the Czech Republic this November.

Group D

North Macedonia fell at home in Skopje to Austria 6-0, with a hat-trick from Nicole Billa (Hoffenheim in Germany, who scored 23 goals last season to lead the league by six goals over second placed Laura Freigang of Eintracht Frankfurt) and a brace from Verena Hanshaw (Eintracht Frankfurt, in her fourth season with the club).

Northern Ireland was triumphant in their second home game in a row against Latvia and came away from the September international window with 6 points, with all the goals coming in the second half from Louise McDaniel, Kristy McGuinness and Marissa Callaghan (all with Cliftonville Ladies) and forward Rachel Furness (Liverpool in England)

Luxembourg came back from Belfast and crashed to England 10-0 at home, with the Lionesses being led by braces from Ellen White and Alex Greenwood (both Manchester City) and Millie Bright (Chelsea), with three goals coming within three minutes of the four minute second half injury time.

England, Austria and Northern Ireland are all undefeated and untied with 2 wins, though England leads on goal difference (+18) over Austria (+13) and Northern Ireland (+8)—a gap that could be decisive in determining the top two next fall as the Group wraps up.

Group E

Russia defeated Montenegro 5-0 in Moscow, with CSKA Moscow midfielder Nadezhda Smirnova (25) scoring three times in the second half.

Denmark coasted to an easy 8-0 road win over Azerbaijan with a hat-trick from Stine Larsen (who joined Hacken in Sweden after a year at Aston Villa in 2020-21) and a brace from Signe Brunn (23), who joined Olympique Lyon—where she has 3 goals in 3 games—this season after three years with PSG in France.

Malta hosted Bosnia-Herzegovina, who needed the win after falling at home to Montenegro to open the qualifiers four days before (above). Bosnia-Herzegovina tied Malta 2-2, with the hosts down 2-0 after 33 minutes but Malta scored twice in the last 9 minutes, with the tying goal coming from Stefania Farrugia (30) of Birkirkara—who has won six league crowns with the club and been runners-up on three occasions since the 2012-13 season to Hibernians, the champions those three seasons—coming 5 minutes into injury time.

As expected, Denmark and Russia head the table with 6 points, with Denmark having the advantage on goal difference (+15 to +7) in these early games.

Group F

Poland went on the road to Yerevan and came away with an important 3 standing points with a 1-0 win over Armenia on a Weronika Zawistowska (21) goal in the 27th minute, who moved from Gornik Leczna to join Cologne in Germany this season.

Norway defeated Kosovo 3-0 in Pristina.

Belgium had a resounding 7-0 over Albania in Brussels with Jassina Blom scoring a hat-trick within 8 minutes in the second half, after coming on as a substitute in the 72nd minute and by the 85th minute, she had three goals. Blom joined Tenerife this summer after a move from PEC Zwolle at home. Tine De Caigny (Hoffenheim, after moving from Anderlecht this summer, where she won four Belgium Super League titles) added two goals. Belgium had 28 shots to only three for Albania (21 vs. 1 on target).

Norway, not surprisingly given their strong WWC qualifying track record—including the Finals Winners in 1995—tops the group on 6 points, with Belgium and Poland unbeaten on 4 points.

Group G

Italy defeated Croatia 5-0 on the road in Kalovac, building on a 2-0 halftime lead.

Switzerland had an easy time of it in Moldova, coming away with a 6-0 win after building a 4-0 halftime advantage. Switzerland had 24 shots to 1 for Moldova, with a 14-0 advantage for shots on target.

Romania's second home game of this FIFA window was against Lithuania and they came away perfect with two wins after a 3-0 defeat of Lithuania, with their veteran striker Laura Rus (33) scoring a brace. Rus has played in Spain, Cyprus, Denmark, Korea Republic, Belgium, Italy and has scored 2 goals in 7 games with Tindastoll in Iceland this summer, with the club unfortunately relegated after finishing 11th with a 4-2-12 (W-D-L) record for 14 points.

Switzerland, Italy and Romania all top the group with two wins from six games, with a narrow spread on goal difference (+9 for Switzerland, +6 for Italy and +5 for Romania), with the latter definitely capable of making a run for a top two spot and either direct Finals qualification or a playoff spot for 2023.


Group H

Germany dispatched Serbia 5-1 at home in Chemnitz with Lea Schuller scoring four times in the second half, making it six in the two qualifiers this month, pulling back a 1-0 deficit through Nina Matejic's third minute goal for Serbia, which stood until Schuller scored two within five minutes early in the second half (49' and 54' minute).

Germany has two wins from two games and 6 points, while Portugal has 4 points from two matches, with Turkey (1 point), Serbia (0 points), Israel (0 points) and Bulgaria (0 points) lurking behind and should not be discounted yet as they all have only played one game.

Group I

Greece bounced back from their 10-0 opening game hiding by France four days before with a 3-2 home win in Patras over Kazakhstan, with Kaloyan Petkov's side scoring from their only two shots on frame, compared to 11 for the hosts, for whom forward Anastasia Spryidonidou (24) of PAOK had two goals and the ultimate winner in the 72nd minute.

Wales traveled to Parnu, Estonia and came home with full points after Reading's Natasha Harding's fifth minute goal gave the visitors the 1-0 win over Estonia.

France's Marie Katoto scored twice by the hour mark to give France a 2-1 lead over Serbia in Murska Sobota, but a penalty by Mateja Zver (33) of St. Polten in Austria in the 88th minute tied the match before Olympique Lyon's Amel Majri's late heroics in the 94th minute gave France an important win over a quickly improving team under head coach Jarc Borut.

France is quite lucky to be joint top of Group I with Wales on 6 points, with Slovenia and Greece still in the frame with 3 points after 2 games. Though early, Kazakhstan and Estonia need some points in their next four/three games respectively before the end of 2021 to keep their hopes alive for Australia/New Zealand.

Brazil hosts Argentina for two friendlies

On September 17th Brazil won 3-1 in Capina Grande in Paraiba State in Northeastern Brazil, with goals by Debinha, Nycole Raysla and Angelina, with a consolation goal for Argentina in the 73rd minute by Florencia Bonsegundo, assisted by Kansas City NWSL-based Marianna Larroqutte.

Three days later, Brazil won 4-1 in Joao Pessoa, the capital of Paraiba State, with goals by Kerolin, Marta Debinha and Yasmin, while Larroquette scored the lone goal for Argentina.

Pia Sundhage selected 23 players for the home friendlies against Argentina, with seven playing in Spain, three in the U.S. and one each in Portugal and England


Aline Reis – UD Granadilla Tenerife (Spain)
Letícia – Benfica (Portugal)
Lorena – Grêmio


Tamires – Corinthians
Yasmin – Corinthians
Katrine – Palmeiras
Antonia – Madrid C.F.F (Spain)
Daiane – Madrid C.F.F (Spain)
Erika – Corinthians
Bruninha – Santos
Lauren – São Paulo


Duda – São Paulo
Thaís – Palmeiras
Ary Borges – Palmeiras
Angelina – O.L Reign (U.S.)
Marta – Orlando Pride (U.S.)
Andressinha – Corinthians
Ivana Fuso – Manchester United (England)


Kerolin – Madrid C.F.F (Spain)
Debinha – North Carolina Courage (U.S.)
Geyse – Madrid CFF (Spain)
Ludmila – Atlético de Madrid (Spain)
Nycole Raysla – Benfica (Spain)

Argentina's roster was primarily home-based, with the imports including Augustina Barroso (Palmerias of Brazil), Yael Oviedo (Universidad de Chile of Chile), Erica Lonigro (Sporting Limpeno of Paraguay), Marianna Lorroquette (Kansas City in the States) and three from Spain (see below).


U.S. Scores 17 goals against Paraguay in two matches in Ohio

The U.S. women's national team defeated Paraguay 9-0 in Cleveland, Ohio in an international friendly on September 16 in front of a crowd of 14,117 for the first ever meeting of the two nations. Carli Lloyd scored five goals. Lloyd became just the ninth player the score five goals in a USWNT game, joining Brandi Chastain (1991), Michelle Akers (1991), Tiffany Milbrett (2002), Abby Wambach (2004), Amy Rodriguez (2012), Sydney Leroux (2012), Crystal Dunn (2016) and Alex Morgan (2019). Two U.S. starters who weren't on the Olympic Games Finals team this summer were impactful, Mallory Pugh had three assists and Andi Sullivan scored twice and contributed one assist. The U.S. led on shots 32-1, 18-0 for shots on frame and the Americans had 76% of ball possession. After the game, Lloyd was asked if she was reconsidering her decision to retire after her phenomenal goal scoring night, to which she replied, "Maybe, for a split second, and then I go back to reality." She has indicated that she wants to start a family with her husband.

In the second game in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 21, midfielder Rose Lavelle was the hero as she returned to her hometown and scored the first goal of the game in the fourth minute and provided 3 assists before a crowd of 22,515. Alex Morgan added a hat-trick and Catarina Macario scored a brace, the second from a brilliant half-volley that the Paraguayan goalkeeper covered but it was too much of a rocket for her to fully stop. Carli Lloyd scored once, and has now scored 134 career goals, including eight in the team's last three matches. Lloyd will play her final two games with the USWNT against South Korea, on October 21 in Kansas City, Kansas and on October 26 in St. Paul, Minnesota, after announcing that she is stepping away from the game at the end of the NWSL season. The U.S. had 29 shots to only 2 for the South Americans, with a 15-1 advantage for shots on goal and again 76% of the possession.

U.S. Roster for Paraguay Friendlies:
Goalkeepers: (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Adrianna Franch (Kansas City NWSL).
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars), Kelley O'Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).
Midfielders (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Catarina Macario (Lyon/FRA), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
Forwards (6): Tobin Heath (Arsenal/ENG), Carli Lloyd (Gotham FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (NC Courage).
Note: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars) and Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign) did not play in the Paraguay matches due to injuries.

Paraguay was ranked 50th in the world by FIFA entering the two matches against the Americans. Paraguay had played only one match in 2021, a 7-0 loss to Japan in Sendai in April. Three matches against Colombia in June were cancelled due to COVID. Paraguay finished fourth at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, winning Group A over Colombia, Mexico and Jamaica, before falling in the semifinal to Argentina (3-0) and in the bronze medal game to Costa Rica (1-0).

Paraguay only took 18 players to Ohio but nine players have 25 or more caps, led by defender Limpia Fretes (54 caps/10 goals) and midfielder Fanny Godoy (49/10).

Paraguay's tops scorer on this roster is midfielder Fabiola Sandoval, who has 25 goals in 43 caps. She played for Paraguay at the 2018 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in France, as did five others: D Lorena Alonso, D Daysy Bareiro, D Limpia Fretes, M Fanny Godoy and D Deisy Ojeda. All but Bareiro and Ojeda (who were on the bench) played against the USA U-20s during group play—a 6-0 U.S. victory in Concarneau, France.

Three of the Paraguay squad are based with clubs in Spain, with two in Brazil and one each in Argentina and Colombia.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 12-Alicia Bobadilla (San Lorenzo de Almagro, ARG), 1-Cristina Recalde (C.D. Juan Grande, ESP)
DEFENDERS (9): 15-Sofía Almirón (Sol de América), 8-Lorena Alonso (Sol de América), 4-Daysy Bareiro (C.D. Juan Grande, ESP), 3-Limpia Fretes (Cerro Porteño), 13-Fiorella Martínez (Libertad-Limpeño), 2-María Martínez (Olimpia), 14-Deisy Ojeda (Olimpia), 11-Mirta Pico (Sol de América), 5-Tania Riso (Deportivo Capiatá)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 16-Cynthia Ayala (Minas Brasilia Futebol, BRA), 6-Fany Gauto (Santa Fe de Bogotá, COL), 10-Fanny Godoy (C.D. Juan Grande, ESP), 7-Celsa Sandoval (Esporte Clube Bahia, BRA), 17-Yanina Servín (Cerro Porteño)
FORWARDS (2): 18-Ramona Martínez (Olimpia), 9-Liz Peña (Libertad-Limpeño)

Republic of Ireland defeats Australia 3-2 in Dublin

Head coach Vera Pauw's Republic of Ireland women's national team earned arguably their signature win during her two year tenure with a 3-2 win over Australia on September 22 at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin, in the first meeting ever between the two sides. An early Lucy Quinn (27) free-kick looked initially like she had scored on her full international debut (she was born in England and plays at Birmingham City in the WSL) but it was ruled as an own goal by Matilda goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold. Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage) and Louise Quinn (Birmingham City) also had goals for the Irish. Mary Fowler (Montpellier in France) scored two goals for the Matildas. Fowler (18) doubled her previous two goals for Australia, scoring against the country that her father and grandfather are from and that she considered playing for before Australia capped her as a 15-year-old and took her to the France Women's World Cup in 2019; she kept the Aussies in the game but it wasn't enough to head off the Irish victory, it's first win after seven consecutive losses. Pauw, who aggressively pursued Fowler in recruiting her for the green shirt, said about the teenager, "That is sport and she is right to choose what is best for her. She has a huge career in front of her but, unfortunately not for us."

The game was the first women's international with fans in Dublin (3,341 out of 4,000 tickets available) since the COVID pandemic began in earnest in March of 2020. Pauw praised the fan support at the stadium, "I've always said it, from the first moment that I came here, that our fans are truly unbelievable. From when they arrive into the Stadium right the way until the very end, they are cheering us on and that makes such a difference as it helps to inspire our players. It was far too long not playing in front of our fans, even though we all appreciate and respect the effects of COVID-19. But on Tuesday, it was like they had never been away. There was an electric feeling around the place and the fans never got tired and never stopped supporting us." On the win, Pauw said, "We are delighted with our performance and result against Australia, but now we turn our attention to the FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers—starting at home in Tallaght Stadium against Sweden on October 2. I really hope that we can get as many fans as possible into the Stadium for that game because it will be one of the biggest games in the history of the Ireland Women's Team.

 Louise Quinn celebrates scoring the Republic of Ireland's winner against Australia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Louise Quinn (#4) celebrates scoring the Republic of Ireland's winner against Australia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph Credit: James Crombie/Inpho in the Irish Times on September 22, 2021.

For Australia, the second half saw the introduction of Emma Checker (Selfoss of Iceland/Melbourne City) and Lydia Williams (Arsenal) as well as international debuts for three players. Angie Beard (2020/21 W-League Champions Melbourne Victory), Clare Wheeler (Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark) and Charli [Charlotte] Grant (Rosengard of Sweden), who became caps number 213, 214 and 215 all-time for Australia's women's side. A positive of the game was that Sam Kerr (Chelsea in England) won her 100th cap for the Matildas and is her nation's all-time leading scorer with 48. Kerr debuted as a 15-year-old for the Matildas in 2009 and scored her first international as a 16-year-old in an AFC Women's Asian Cup match. Unfortunately, Chloe Logarzo (Kansas City NWSL) was injured during the match and was helped off the pitch in the 53rd minute after going down, clutching her knee.

Australia's Swedish head coach Tony Gustavsson, was clearly upset with his team's result and overall play, saying after the match, "I think I'm a bit too emotional now to do a good analysis of the game, I might say the wrong things here when I'm too emotional, but I said in the circle with the team afterwards that it felt that they [Ireland] wanted it more than us and that's not okay. With the Matildas, it's in our DNA to always give it 100%, to play a physical game, to be aggressive, to wear the crest on the chest and always play our best and it felt like Ireland wanted it more. Obviously, I need to look at myself in the mirror as well to ask could I have done something different to prep the team in terms of that." In terms of controlling the ball, Gustavsson said critically, "We had 50% passing accuracy in the final third, that means every second pass, we gave the ball away in the final third and then the crossing accuracy was 20%. That means two out of 10 crosses make it to the target. It's not that we didn't create enough opportunities to create chances, but we didn't create enough chances because we gave the ball away."

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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