The Week in Women’s Football: UEFA World Cup playoffs – Ireland shocks us all

This week, we review the six UEFA Women’s World Cup Playoff matches, which saw the Republic of Ireland make the Promised Land of the Women’s World Cup for the first time, while Switzerland made their second Finals and Portugal has to go to February’s Intercontinental Playoffs, but should be heavily favored to make their WWC debut among 10 teams; we also present the results of the draw for the Intercontinental Playoffs and our picks for the three teams who should advance to the Finals next summer.

UEFA Playoffs for 2023 Women’s World Cup Qualifying

Last month, we wrapped up the group stage of EURO’s 2023 Women’s World Cup Qualifiers and set up the UEFA playoffs (The Week in Women’s Football: UEFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Qualifying; Intercontinental Playoffs – Tribal Football), which gave us six high quality matches and one major surprise as the Republic of Ireland stunned Scotland in Glasgow (1-0) to advance to their first WWC Finals, along with Switzerland—who made the Round of 16 in their Finals debut in 2015 in Canada—which we review below.

October 6—First Round Matches

Portugal 2 vs. Belgium 1

On October 6 in Vizela, Portugal left it late to move past Belgium (2-1) and onto the final stage of the UEFA WWC Playoffs. Diana Silva (27), who played last season with Aston Villa in the WSL and is now with Sporting Lisbon at home, scored the first goal of the game in the 28th minute. Tessa Wullaert (Fortuna Sittard of the Netherlands) scored the equalizer for Belgium 12 minutes later from the penalty spot. Defender Amber Tysiak (22—Oud-Heverlee Leuven) was sent off for Belgium with a red card in the 88th minute (eight minutes after coming on as a substitute) and a minute later, Portugal was ahead to stay with a goal from midfielder Fatima Pinto (26), who is with Deportivo Alaves in Spain after winning one Portuguese league title each at Sporting and Atletico Ourense. Joana Marchao (25 of Parma in Italy—who she joined this summer after six seasons at Sporting) assisted on both goals for Portugal. The game was very exciting and Belgium had the ball in the net with around 20 minutes left to play but it was waved off for offsides. Portugal next were to host Iceland on October 11, with neither team ever having made a WWC before.

Wales 1 vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina 0

Jess Fishlock scored Wales’ winning goal, moving into space to receive a free-kick from outside of the box and then lofting the ball into the far top corner of the net on an inspired move, just before the end of the first overtime period in Cardiff, for the only goal in their 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina (see more on B&H’s surprising run to the Playoffs in last month’s column: The Week in Women’s Football: UEFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Qualifying; Intercontinental Playoffs – Tribal Football). Wales then had to travel to Switzerland and play for a WWC or an Intercontinental Playoff spot—Wales has never qualified for the Finals while Switzerland advanced to the Round of 16 in 2015 in Canada and the 2017- and 2022-Women’s Euro Finals.

Scotland 1 vs. Austria 0

This game also went to overtime before a record crowd at Hampden Park (Glasgow) of 10,128 and Scotland advanced on a 92nd minute goal by Abigal Harrison (24), who is in her fifth season at Bristol City in the WSL.

Austria’s squad included a large number of players who are currently playing in Germany (12), as is typical for the neighboring countries, as well as two each from England, Italy and Switzerland, one based in France and five from the local Austrian league:

Goalkeeper: EL SHERIF Mariella (SK Sturm Graz/0 caps), KRESCHE Isabella (US Sassuolo Femminile/ITA/2), ZINSBERGER Manuela (Arsenal WFC/ENG/85)

Defence: DEGEN Celina (1. FC Köln/GER/6/1 goal), GEORGIEVA Marina (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA/19/0), HANSHAW Verena (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/91/10), KIRCHBERGER Virginia (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/89/2), SCHIECHTL Katharina (SV Werder Bremen/GER/63/9), WENNINGER Carina (AS Roma/ITA/122/7), WIENROITHER Laura (Arsenal WFC/ENG/28/1)

Midfield: DUNST Barbara (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/61/10), EDER Jasmin (spusu SKN St. Pölten/55/1), FEIERSINGER Laura (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER/98/18), HICKELSBERGER-FÜLLER Julia (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim/GER/23/5), HÖBINGER Marie-Therese (FC Zürich/SUI/24/6), KLEIN Jennifer (spusu SKN St. Pölten/15/1), NASCHENWENG Katharina (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim/GER/35/5), PUNTIGAM Sarah (1. FC Köln/GER/126/18), SCHASCHING Annabel (SK Sturm Graz/3/1), ZADRAZIL Sarah (FC Bayern Munich/GER/102/14)

Attack: BILLA Nicole (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim/GER/85/47), ENZINGER Stefanie (spusu SKN St. Pölten/30/6), KOLB Lisa (SC Freiburg/GER/10/1), WIENERROITHER Katja (Grasshopper Club Zürich/SUI/11/2)

On call players for Austria included four players based in Germany, two in Spain, one in Switzerland and 14 playing at home:

On call: Anna BEREUTER (SPG SCR Altach/FFC Vorderland/0/0), Livia BRUNMAIR (First Vienna FC 1894/0/0), BRUNNTHALER Melanie (spusu SKN St. Pölten/0/0), CAMPBELL Eileen (SPG SCR Altach/FFC Vorderland/0/0), FELIX Lara (1. FC Nürnberg/GER/1/0), FUCHS Lainie (spusu SKN St. Pölten/0/0), GRITZNER Vanessa (SK Sturm Graz/0), GURTNER Andrea (UD Tenerife/ESP/0), HILLEBRAND Sophie (spusu SKN St. Pölten/0/0), HORVAT Sabrina (SPG SCR Altach/FFC Vorderland/1/0), KRAMMER Kristin (1. FC Köln/GER/1), LEITNER Annelie (DUX Logrono/ESP/1/0), MAGERL Julia (SK Sturm Graz/2/1), MAIERHOFER Sophie (SK Sturm Graz/22/1), MITTERMAIR Linda (First Vienna FC 1894/0/0), NATTER Linda (SPG SCR Altach/FFC Vorderland/0/0), PAL Jasmin (1. FC Köln/GER/2/0), PFANNER Patricia (First Vienna FC 1894/0/0), PINTHER Viktoria (FC Zürich/SUI/28/1), PLATTNER Maria (1st FFC Turbine Potsdam/GER/9/4), WEILHARTER Yvonne (FK Austria Wien/6/0)

October 11—Final Matches

Scotland 0 Republic of Ireland 1

The Republic of Ireland made their first ever Women’s World Cup Finals in a historic match against heavily favored Scotland on October 11 in Glasgow. This reporter has followed women’s football in the Republic and Northern Ireland for years (I admit to having strong Irish family roots), but unfortunately could not find a live stream of this game. I was able to listen to RTE Ireland’s live radio broadcast in the second half of this unexpected but historic win for the Republic. Ireland had a clear attacking and tactical advantage in the first half, finishing with 7 shots to 4 for the Scottish side (2-1 for shots on target) and deserved the victory.

There were two key moments of this stirring match, one in each half. In the 12th minute, Scotland’s Martha Thomas shot was deflected onto the crossbar but the referee deemed that it had been deflected off of defender Niamh Fahey’s hand. Fahey vehemently argued the call, which seemed borderline in replays after he fact. It looked dire for the visitors when Scotland striker Caroline Weir came up to take the penalty kick in front of another record crowd of 10,708—the second record crowd in five days—at the Scottish national stadium, Hampden Park. Weir has been in such good goalscoring form for her new club Real Madrid in the 2022-23 UEFA Women’s Champions League, scoring the only goal of the game to knock her old side Manchester City out of the qualifiers and then tallying 3 goals in the two-leg 5-1 aggregate victory of Norway’s Rosenborg in the second round.

Everton goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan dived to her left to save Weir’s penalty. It seemed to be a deflating moment for Weir and Scotland; new Scotland head coach Pedro Martinez Losa cited it as a key moment in the game when reflecting on the defeat afterwards (see below). Brosnan said after the game that she and the coaching staff had prepared extensively for penalties in the lead up to the game and she had studied Weir’s past attempts.

Scotland v Republic of Ireland - FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Play-off

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan [in light blue on the ground] saves Caroline Weir’s [#7 in dark blue] 13th minute penalty kick on October 11 in Ireland’s 1-0 Women’s World Cup Qualifying victory, which has sent them onto next summer’s Women’s World Cup Finals in Australia/New Zealand.

Photo courtesy of Sportsfile via Getty Images.

The other major moment in the game came in the 72nd minute when Fahey passed to midfielder Denise O’Sullivan, who sent a terrific pass up to substitute Amber Barrett of Turbine Potsdam, who then toe-poked the ball on her right foot just past Scottish keeper Lee Gibson (31—Glasgow City). After the goal, Ireland just had to hold on for 20 minutes to, “make the Promised Land”, as RTE Ireland’s announcer Nathan Murphy said, further stating when full time came that it was a, “Great Day in Irish Sports.” Irish all-time cap leader Emma Byrne said as the game ended, “[This is] Heartbreak for Scotland—I’m sorry, we deserve this one.”

Scotland, with their larger pool of experienced players, probably would win this match 8 times out of 10 if it were replayed, but indeed Ireland deserved this game and had an effective game plan drawn up by their head coach Vera Pauw. This game again emphasized the high drama of the one game playoff which FIFA and UEFA went to as a result of COVID and seem to now favor. We have to wonder what would have been the result of all three final games with a traditional home and away leg format, particularly for this match as well as for the Portugal-Iceland and Wales-Switzerland ties (see below).

The Irish head coach Vera Pauw, who previously managed the national teams of Scotland (1998 to 2004, when her husband was an assistant coach at Glasgow Rangers men’s side), Russia and South Africa, as well as taking her native Netherlands to the semi-finals of UEFA Women’s Euro 2009, was appointed in 2019. Her side narrowly missed out on reaching the play-offs for UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 and some expected that she would be replaced (I thought that the IFA would make a change though I was in favor of her staying on). The IFA gave her a two-year contract extension through the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup cycle and now the federation leaders look like geniuses—not something that is frequently associated with the always debt-heavy IFA. Now the key is trying to keep Pauw onboard after Australia/New Zealand, as she will now be in high demand in Europe and other regions of the world.

Scotland v Republic of Ireland - FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Play-off

Republic of Ireland’s Women’s National Team starters line up in Glasgow for their UEFA Playoff Finals for the Women’s World Cup match against Scotland on October 17, 2022.

Courtesy Sportsfile via Getty Images.

Ireland had to win in regulation or extra time because of UEFA’s convoluted formula to determine the top two teams in the playoffs and thus the direct qualifiers for 2023, based on group qualifier points and points gained in the playoffs. A tie for either team would have sent them onto the next stage of FIFA Qualifiers in New Zealand next February.

Note to UEFA: please drop this formula for future tournaments. Seeding the six teams based on their group play points and results is fine but then adding in the points for the playoff game results was too complicated and hard to determine its effectiveness—luckily, one of the seeded teams fell in the final game (Iceland against Portugal) but the possible permutations open UEFA up to more controversy in the future, which isn’t justified by this new format, as it didn’t add appreciably to the competitive experience.

The Republic of Ireland, with their win in Glasgow, became the 41st different nation to qualify for the finals; they are also the fifth debutantes at the 2023 tournament along with Morocco, Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia.

McCabe and O'Sullivan were immense in Glasgow

Arsenal’s Katie McCabe and North Carolina Courage midfielder Denise O’Sullivan celebrate after this 1-0 win over Scotland on October 11 to secure a berth in their first ever WWC Finals. Photo credit RTE Ireland.

Team captain Katie McCabe told RTÉ Sport after the match: “We’re going to a World Cup…It will change women’s football in Ireland. That’s what we want to do—inspire the next generation of kids…We want young girls in Ireland to play football, become professional footballers and represent their country at major tournaments. That’s what it’s all about, inspiring the next generation. We’re able to inspire the next generation of footballers next year at the World Cup in Australia. Book your tickets!”

McCabe talked about what Women’s World Cup qualification meant to her, “I’m speechless. It doesn’t actually feel real to be honest. I’m just so proud of the girls. We worked our socks off tonight. This one [O’Sullivan] covered every inch of Hampden. Everybody was unbelievable; Courtney with the penalty save, Amber coming on, scoring the goal… we’re going to a World Cup!…People might not like our of play with the defending, but we love it. We love to defend, we’re passionate about it, it’s our identity. We catch teams out on the counter-attack like we did tonight. That’s our strength, it gets results; we’ve been on a great run so far. To come here, a difficult place to come, away from home, we had our travelling fans here. We were up against it tonight, we were the underdogs—but we always are, and we love it! We get results and prove people wrong and we’re going to a World Cup now.” No doubt there will be huge fan support next summer of the Republic’s games, just as there were in England for Northern Ireland’s three EURO games this summer in Southampton.

In the team’s celebration after their win, video emerged that some team members were chanting a slogan that is closely associated with the Irish Republican Army. It may be over two decades since the Good Friday accord, which brought peace to the long-running sectarian Troubles in Northern Ireland, but unfortunately the sectarian history is always close to the surface and it is still an extremely sensitive issue to the Irish on both sides of the border. The fact that the game was in Glasgow, home to many Irish diaspora and which has dealt with sectarian conflict as well, was not good for appearances for a team that should be looked upon as opinion leaders for Irish youth in particular. Vera Pauw later apologized and said players would be, “reminded of their responsibilities,” while forward Aine O’Gorman told RTE Sport, “We sang 100 songs and that was the one that went out. We would just like to apologise to anyone who was offended.” UEFA said that it would look into, “potential inappropriate behavior”.

Pedro Martinez Losa—the Spanish coach who was a head coach at Arsenal in England from 2014 until late in 2017, after previously assisting the Western New York Flash in the NWSL—took on the Scotland job last year after two seasons coaching Bordeaux’s women’s side in France and told BBC Alba after the match, “I’m very disappointed – for the girls, and for the whole nation. It was an incredible opportunity. I think the game was hard on us, but those things happen in life and in football. I apologise to the fans. We wanted to qualify for the World Cup so badly….We missed little details. We didn’t score the penalty, and after that, I’m not sure how many opportunities the opposition had to score. The [Republic of Ireland] game plan was executed well. It was one action at one side of the box and another at the other side of the box that decided the game.” After qualifying for the UEFA Women’s Euro in 2017 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, Scotland have now missed out on two successive major tournaments, including this past summer’s Women’s EURO Finals in England.

Pedro Martinez Losa named the following 25 players for his Scotland squad, which due to UEFA seedings, were able to hold both games at home. Thirteen of the squad members play in England, seven play in the Scottish Women’s Premier League, while two are currently with clubs in Italy, with one each play in Spain, Sweden and the U.S. (in the NWSL).

Scotland squad

Eartha Cumings Liverpool (ENG)
Jenna Fife Rangers
Lee Gibson Glasgow City
Emma Mukandi Reading (ENG)
Jen Beattie Arsenal (ENG)
Jenna Clark Glasgow City
Kelly Clark Celtic
Nicola Docherty Rangers
Rachel Corsie Aston Villa (ENG)
Sophie Howard Leicester City (ENG)
Caroline Weir Real Madrid (SPA)
Chloe Arthur Crystal Palace (ENG)
Christie Murray Birmingham City (ENG)
Christy Grimshaw AC Milan (ITA)
Claire Emslie Angel City FC (USA)
Erin Cuthbert Chelsea (ENG)
Lucy Graham Everton (ENG)
Rachel McLauchlan Rangers
Sam KerrRangers
Abi Harrison Bristol City (ENG)
Fiona Brown Rosengard (SWE)
Kirsty Hanson Aston Villa (ENG—on loan from Manchester Utd)
Lana Clelland Sassuolo (ITA)
Lisa Evans West Ham (ENG)
Martha Thomas Manchester Utd (ENG)

On September 30, manager Vera Pauw selected 28 players to make up the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team squad at the end of September for the crucial playoff match. Injuries ruled out Savannah McCarthy (Galway and ex-Glasgow City of Scotland—knee), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion—ribs), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa of the WSL and ex-Glasgow City and Celtic of Scotland—foot), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths—knee), Aoife Colvill (a former Australian youth international who plays with Glasgow City in Scotland—knee) Jessica Ziu (West Ham United of the WSL—knee) and Leanne Kiernan (Liverpool of England—ankle). The players originally selected are primarily with clubs in England (17), with three in the U.S. (two with colleges), two playing in Scotland and one each in Denmark, Germany and Italy, while three are based at home in the Republic of Ireland’s Women’s League

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad
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), Claire O’Riordan (Celtic—SCO), Diane Caldwell (Reading—ENG), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City—ENG), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool—ENG), Hayley Nolan (London City Lionesses—ENG), Chloe Mustaki (Bristol City—ENG), Megan Campbell (Liverpool—ENG), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United)
Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal—ENG), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage—USA), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City—ENG), Ciara Grant (Hearts—SCO), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses—ENG), Niamh Farrelly (Parma—ITA), Roma McLaughlin (Central Connecticut University—USA), Jess Ziu (West Ham United—ENG), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City—ENG), Isibeal Atkinson (West Ham United—ENG)
Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University—USA), Amber Barrett (FFC Turbine Potsdam—GER), Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne), Saoirse Noonan (Durham WFC—ENG), Kyra Carusa (HB Hoge–DEN)

Seven players in the Ireland squad either play or have played for Scottish clubs (Celtic: Claire O’Riordan, Keeva Keenan, Isibeal Atkinson; Glasgow City: Katie McCabe, Denise O’Sullivan, Niamh Farrelly; Hearts: Ciara Grant; Rangers: Ciara Grant. Ciara Grant (27) is the WNT squad now—and is a physician and lectured at the Royal college of Surgeons in Ireland. She played for the first half of 2022 with Rangers and was the first Republic of Ireland national to play for their men’s or women’s side since the early 1930’s (Alex Stevenson). She won the league title with Rangers. She also played Gaelic Football growing up in County Donegal.

In the Scotland match, Niamh Fahey equaled Ciara Grant’s (ex-Arsenal) national team caps total of 105. Grant was the first WNT international to make 100 appearances. Republic of Ireland women’s national team players with over 100 caps include: Emma Byrne (134), Áine O’Gorman (113), Ciara Grant (105) and Niamh Fahey (105). Note: Ciara Grant is the former Arsenal player and not the current Hearts and former Rangers midfielder (see above).

The Republic of Ireland WNT entered the game having played Scotland more times (21) than any other nation at senior level: ahead of Northern Ireland (20), Wales (15), United States (14). In their 21 previous meetings before the October 11 match, Ireland won 6 times, but not at all since 2001, with 3 ties (the last in 2005) against 12 losses. Scotland (23) entered the game three places ahead of Ireland (26) in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings

Portugal 4 vs Iceland 1 after extra time.

Portugal blew open a close, tense match with three goals in extra time and sent Iceland out of the tournament on October 11. With other results the same day, Portugal now has to go to New Zealand in February to take part in the Intercontinental Playoffs, but should capture one of the three final Women’s World Cup spots available as the highest seed of the 10 nations involved (see below).

Carole Costa (32—Benfica) gave the home side the lead from the penalty spot in the 55th minute but then Glodis Viggosdotter (27—in her second season at Bayern Munich) scoring the tying goal four minutes later. In extra time, Diana Silva (27—Sporting) Tatiana Pinto (28—in her second season at Levante in Spain) and Francisca Nazereth (19—Benfica) scored in the 92nd, 108th and 121st minutes, respectively.

Spare a thought for Iceland, who came within a minute of qualifying directly for their first WWC finals in the group stage against the Netherlands away in their last match but surrendered a last-minute goal. Iceland has a quality team and have qualified for the last four consecutive Women’s EURO tournaments. They will now have to wait until the 2027 WWC qualifiers while continuing to blood young talent from their vibrant national league.

Portugal’s squad was primarily domestic-based, with 18 playing with clubs at home, four based in Spain and one each in Brazil, Italy and Switzerland.

Goalkeeper: Rute Costa (SL Benfica), Inês Pereira (Servette FC—SWI) e Patrícia Morais (SC Braga)

Defence: Alicia Correia (Sporting CP), Carole (SL Benfica), Diana Gomes (Sevilla FC—

SPA), Joana Marchão (Parma—ITA), Lúcia Alves (SL Benfica), Sílvia Rebelo (SL Benfica) e Bruna Lourenço (Sporting CP)

Midfield: Andreia Norton (SL Benfica), Andreia Faria (SL Benfica), Dolores Silva (SC Braga), Fátima Pinto (Deportivo Alavés—SPA), Kika Nazareth (SL Benfica), Tatiana Pinto (Levante UD—SPA) e Vanessa Marques (SC Braga) e Andreia Jacinto (Real Sociedad—SPA)

Attack: Ana Borges (Sporting CP), Ana Capeta (Sporting CP), Carolina Mendes (SC Braga), Diana Silva (Sporting CP), Jéssica Silva (SL Benfica), Suzane Pires (Ferroviária—BRA) e Telma Encarnação (CS Marítimo)

Þorsteinn H. Halldórsson named the following 23 players for Iceland’s one playoff game that Iceland had, having received a first-round bye due to the UEFA coefficient for second place finishers in the group stage. Most played in Iceland’s women’s league (9) with three playing each in Italy, Norway and Sweden, two in Germany, and one each in England, France and the United States,

Sandra Sigurðardóttir – Valur – 47 games

Auður Sveinbjörnsdóttir Scheving – ÍBV – 1 game

Íris Dögg Gunnarsdóttir – Throttur Reykjavik (ex-University of Alabama-Huntsville) – 0 caps

Elísa Viðarsdóttir – Valur – 49 games

Gudný Árnadóttir – AC Milan, Italy – 18 games

Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir – Bayern Munich, Germany – 107 games, 7 goals

Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir – Valerenga, Norway – 48 games

Gudrun Arnardóttir – Rosengard, Sweden – 21 games, 1 goal

Arna Sif Ásgrímsdóttir – Valur – 12 games, 1 goal

Áslaug Munda Gunnlaugsdóttir – Breiðablik – 10 games

Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir – Fiorentina, Italy – 28 games, 3 goals

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir – Juventus, Italy – 144 games, 24 goals

Dagný Brynjarsdóttir – West Ham, England – 107 games, 37 goals

Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir – Orlando Pride, U.S.A. – 95 games, 14 goals

Selma Sól Magnúsdóttir – Rosenborg, Norway – 20 games, 3 goals

Berglind Björg Þorvaldsdóttir – Paris Saint Germain, France – 68 games, 12 goals

Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir – Brann, Norway – 41 games, 2 goals

Amanda Jacobsen Andradóttir – Kristanstads DFF, Sweden – 8 games

Agla María Albertsdóttir – Breiðablik – 50 games, 4 goals

Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir – Wolfsburg, Germany – 24 games, 7 goals

Elín Metta Jensen – Valur – 62 games, 16 goals

Hlín Eiríksdóttir – Pitea IF, Sweden – 20 games, 3 goals

Ásdís Karen Halldórsdóttir – Valur – 1 game

Switzerland 2 vs Wales 1

Rhiannon Roberts put Wales ahead in their European play-off final and had the ball in the net in the 84th minute but it was waived off; Swiss veteran and UEFA WCL winner Ramona Bachmann levelled the score on the stroke of half-time and Switzerland won it in dramatic fashion as substitute Fabienne Humm, a veteran of the Swiss side and FC Zurich, scored in the 121st minute of the second overtime period.

Wales head coach Gemma Grainger chose a 26-player squad for the qualifiers and had an almost full-strength squad available, with the only omission being Natasha Harding who is unavailable due to personal reasons. It seems almost a constant with Harding, who has recently had mystery and intrigue surrounding her recent summer move to Aston Villa from Reading (see: The Week in Women’s Football: CONCACAF reflection; Arsenal keep Miedema; Man City sign Venezuela star Castellanos – Tribal Football). As with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, Wales pulled a majority of the roster from English clubs (24), with only one based at home and Jess Fishlock, who is with OL Reign in Seattle in the NWSL in the States.

Cymru (Wales): Laura O’SULLIVAN (Cardiff City Ladies), Olivia CLARK (Bristol City—ENG), Safia MIDDLETON-PATEL (Manchester United—ENG), Rhiannon ROBERTS (Liverpool—ENG), Josie GREEN (Leicester City—ENG), Hayley LADD (Manchester United—ENG), Gemma EVANS (Reading—ENG), Rachel ROWE (Reading—ENG), Lily WOODHAM (Reading—ENG), Sophie INGLE (Chelsea—ENG), Anna FILBEY (Crystal Palace—ENG), Angharad JAMES (Tottenham Hotspur—ENG), Georgia WALTERS (Sheffield United—ENG), Charlie ESTCOURT (Birmingham City—ENG), Jess FISHLOCK (OL Reign—USA), Carrie JONES (Leicester City – on loan from Manchester United—ENG), Ffion MORGAN (Bristol City—ENG), Megan WYNNE (Southampton—ENG), Elise HUGHES (Crystal Palace—ENG), Kayleigh GREEN (Brighton & Hove Albion—ENG), Helen WARD (Watford—ENG), Ceri HOLLAND (Liverpool—ENG), Maria FRANCIS-JONES (Sheffield United – on loan from Manchester City—ENG), Chloe Williams (Blackburn Rovers – on loan from Manchester United—ENG), Morgan ROGERS (Watford—ENG), Chloe BULL (Bristol City—ENG).

FIFA Draws Groups for the 2023 Women’s World Cup International Playoffs for next February in New Zealand.

On October 14, FIFA held the draw for the 2023 Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand from February 17 through February 23, 2023 in Auckland and Hamilton ,New Zealand:

  • Group A: Portugal, Cameroon, Thailand
  • Group B: Chile, Haiti, Senegal
  • Group C: Chinese Taipei, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Panama

The Play-off Tournament draw throws up some intriguing clashes. In Group A, Cameroon will face Thailand in the first round, with the winner facing UEFA’s Portugal—the highest seed among the ten nations. Cameroon—though they have qualified for the 2015 and 2019 WWC Finals and made the Round of 16 each time—struggled at times during this summer’s WAFCON Championships in Morocco and Thailand (also two-time WWC Finalists) should get past Cameroon. Portugal—who have qualified for the last two Women’s EURO Finals and are quite competitive in Europe, will be heavily favored over Thailand.

In Group B Senegal and Haiti play in the first match, with seeded Chile facing the winners. Haiti, with its large group of French-based players, should defeat Senegal, but are likely to struggle against Chile—who first made the Finals in 2019 in France and boost a number of players from European clubs. Chile tied Mexico recently in a friendly (see: The Week in Women’s Football: NWSL review PII; Angel City outdo LA Galaxy; Lyon beat Chelsea in Portland – Tribal Football).

In Group C, top seed (in the group) Chinese Taipei will face third seed Paraguay and second seed Papua New Guinea will face fourth seed Panama in the first round in probably the most wide-open group. We think that Chinese Taipei, who need to add more international games in preparation as they have played only three games since the Women’s Asian Nations Cup ended in early February—losing three games in the East Asian Football Federation Championships to China (2-0), Japan (4-1) and Korea Republic (4-0)—could edge CONMEBOL’s Paraguay. Papua New Guinea has a potentially winnable draw against CONCACAF’s Panama but they have ditched their English-born and New Zealand-based coach Nicole Demaine, who guided them to this spot by winning the Women’s Oceania Cup this summer, for someone who can take them further—good luck with that plan, which could blow up on them, so we think Panama can advance. Panama defeated Ecuador (1-0) and tied the CONMEBOL side in a second match (1-1) in the October international window, which are promising results. Chinese Taipei should show the strength in depth in women’s football in the AFC—and take the regional confederation’s seventh or even eighth Women’s World Cup Finals spot, second only to UEFA’s 11 or 12, should Portugal advance.

Haiti, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Portugal and Senegal have never appeared at the Women’s World Cup, while Chinese Taipei are looking to qualify for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1991, when they reached the quarter-finals.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women’s football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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