Thursday, February 2

England on verge of making World Cup finals after rout of Northern Ireland | Women’s World Cup


Two goals each from rampant winger Lauren Hemp and her Manchester City teammate Georgia Stanway guided England to an emphatic win over Northern Ireland in Belfast to all but guarantee England’s qualification for the Women’s World Cup.

England ensured at least a playoff place for next summer’s tournament but will likely top the group with Austria needing to overturn the superior goal difference of 32 should the Lionesses take a single point from their final two games of the qualifying campaign.

Manchester United forward Ella Toone provided two assists and scored England’s second as the Lionesses maintained their perfect qualifying campaign against a team they will meet in their final group game of the Euros in the summer.

Northern Ireland were always going to offer a sterner test than North Macedonia had the previous week, not just in terms of the 10-0 score-line. The Lionesses swapped the close-to empty Tose Proeski Arena for a trip to the sold-out Windsor Park, the dry heat of Skopje for a bitterly cold Belfast, a record Northern Ireland crowd in full voice and were facing a team that had not conceded in the first half in six games prior.

But it would have been naive to think that Sarina Wiegman’s side, serious contenders for the home Euros ahead, would not overturn a team of players that entered a first ever seven-month full-time spell in January in preparation for a first appearance at a major international tournament this summer.

For Kenny Shiel’s team, a crushing 3-1 defeat to Austria, their main rivals for a 2023 World Cup play-off place, last week piled the pressure on for the visit of England – take points off the qualifying Group D leaders, who had won seven in seven prior, scoring 63 times without conceding, and there would have been a glimmer of hope.

Instead, England punctured the first-half run of the home team. It had been coming. In the eighth minute England women’s record goalscorer, Ellen White, glanced at the ball wide of the far post after a neat cross from Stanway on the right. Two minutes later and 34-year-old Durham defender Sarah McFadden cleared off the line after Beth Mead had pushed Hemp’s cross from the left goal-wards.

The ball was in the back of the net midway through the half, after White poked in the rebound when Jacqueline Burns did well to save from Mead, but the flag went up.

The goal that broke the deadlock came shortly after. Hemp went on a bursting run into the box on the left before a neat one-two with Toone and the Manchester City winger finished the move by lofting the return over Burns and into the far corner. It was Hemp’s fifth senior international goal, a staggeringly low tally given her influence on the England attack in the last year.

England had made two changes to the side that cruised past North Macedonia. Newly-named Euros captain Leah Williamson was positioned alongside Millie Bright in the center of defence, after sitting out the previous tie while following concussion protocol as a precaution. Jess Carter, who had filled in alongside Bright, was shifted to left-back in place of Demi Stokes.

Georgia Stanway (left) is congratulated by teammates after completing the scoring Photograph: Lynne Cameron/The FA/Getty Images

In the 52nd minute England doubled their lead against the team they beat 4-0 at Wembley in October. Right-back Lucy Bronze weaved into the box, evading four green shirts, before sending in a cross that Toone would sweep in at the back post.

Northern Ireland almost hit back instantly, with Lauren Wade turning on the edge of the box before forcing England keeper Mary Earps to get down low to push away her effort.

wales kept alive their hopes of a Women’s World Cup qualification play-off place as Natasha Harding marked her 100th cap with a goal in a comfortable win away to Kazakhstan.

With France in charge of Group I, Wales are competing with Slovenia and Greece for second place.

Gemma Grainger’s side cantered to a 3-0 victory in Nur-Sultan as Kayleigh Green opened the scoring before Harding struck and Jess Fishlock sealed the win after the break. Harding was holding back the tears during the national anthem as she reached her century of appearances.

It took Wales until just before the half-hour mark to break the deadlock, a low strike from Green setting the visitors on their way. Sophie Ingle then hit the crossbar before Harding toasted her landmark cap, doubling the lead with a close-range finish from Ceri Holland’s cross.

Fishlock wrapped up the points with a well-taken third, opening up her body and scoring from 12 yards to leave Wales with the prospect of qualifying for their first ever World Cup.

With a play-off place the most likely path, Wales face a trip to Greece and a home tie against Slovenia in September knowing two wins would still have them in the hunt for a place at the 2023 finals in Australia and New Zealand.

A record attendance for a women’s international in Scotland watched the home side produces a much-improved performance against Spain as the visitors won 2-0. A crowd of 7,804 watched at Hampden as Scotland delivered a competitive display.

It was not until the 78th minute when Spanish captain Jennifer Hermoso scored her second goal of the game that the visitors looked comfortable.

Scotland threatened early on when Manchester City midfielder Caroline Weir got in behind but was denied by a last-ditch clearance.

The visitors stepped things up and went ahead in the 14th minute when Hermoso netted from the spot after Nicola Docherty had conceded a penalty.

Lee Alexander made saves either side of the break and Spain had a goal disallowed for offside, while Rachel Corsie produced a couple of excellent blocks to keep the game in the balance.

Erin Cuthbert saw a deflected effort spin just wide and Martha Thomas went through but the offside flag was raised as she rounded the goalkeeper and finished.

The clincher came after Hermoso took a return pass and finished into the top corner.

The win sealed Spain’s place in the World Cup finals but Scotland remain in second spot.

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World Cup qualifying roundup: Centurion Fishlock helps Wales win

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wales kept alive their hopes of a Women’s World Cup qualification play-off place as Natasha Harding marked her 100th cap with a goal in a comfortable win away to Kazakhstan.

With France in charge of Group I, Wales are competing with Slovenia and Greece for second place.

Gemma Grainger’s side cantered to a 3-0 victory in Nur-Sultan as Kayleigh Green opened the scoring before Harding struck and Jess Fishlock sealed the win after the break. Harding was holding back the tears during the national anthem as she reached her century of appearances.

It took Wales until just before the half-hour mark to break the deadlock, a low strike from Green setting the visitors on their way. Sophie Ingle then hit the crossbar before Harding toasted her landmark cap, doubling the lead with a close-range finish from Ceri Holland’s cross.

Fishlock wrapped up the points with a well-taken third, opening up her body and scoring from 12 yards to leave Wales with the prospect of qualifying for their first ever World Cup.

With a play-off place the most likely path, Wales face a trip to Greece and a home tie against Slovenia in September knowing two wins would still have them in the hunt for a place at the 2023 finals in Australia and New Zealand.

A record attendance for a women’s international in Scotland watched the home side produces a much-improved performance against Spain as the visitors won 2-0. A crowd of 7,804 watched at Hampden as Scotland delivered a competitive display.

It was not until the 78th minute when Spanish captain Jennifer Hermoso scored her second goal of the game that the visitors looked comfortable.

Scotland threatened early on when Manchester City midfielder Caroline Weir got in behind but was denied by a last-ditch clearance.

The visitors stepped things up and went ahead in the 14th minute when Hermoso netted from the spot after Nicola Docherty had conceded a penalty.

Lee Alexander made saves either side of the break and Spain had a goal disallowed for offside, while Rachel Corsie produced a couple of excellent blocks to keep the game in the balance.

Erin Cuthbert saw a deflected effort spin just wide and Martha Thomas went through but the offside flag was raised as she rounded the goalkeeper and finished.

The clincher came after Hermoso took a return pass and finished into the top corner.

The win sealed Spain’s place in the World Cup finals but Scotland remain in second spot.

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By the hour mark though the visiting team were three up. Williamson’s perfectly weighted defensive-splitting pass found Hemp and the forward rounded Burns with a single touch before sending the ball rolling into the empty net.

Stanway provided the goal that would match their Wembley tally but it was the mazy run of Toone on the left as green shirts stood back that deserved the credit, with the young United midfielder selflessly handing over for Stanway to hammer home.

Stanway scored her second less than 10 minutes later, hooking into the bottom corner after scrappy play in the box.

For England, this was somewhat routine but, with the team having struggled to break down lower-ranked teams that have sat back in recent years, this qualifying campaign has seen the end of a worrying trend.


www.theguardian.com

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