The process for acquiring tickets to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup has already begun in Europe with 35 teams in the running for the eight slots allotted UEFA.
The journey began with 46 teams being split according to their coefficient ranking. While the 30 highest-ranked teams were granted a swift passage to the qualifying group stage, the 16 lowest-ranked teams entered the first qualifying round between 6 and 11 April, 2017 from where five emerged to join the elite.
Fast forward five months later and the group stage is launched in emphatic fashion between 14 and 19 September with 20 matches amassing 91 goals. Janice Cayman scored four as Belgium enjoyed the biggest win of the opening fixtures in their 12-0 demolition of Moldova. Moldova on the other hand have already shipped in the highest number of goals yet (17) from two matches. The Eastern European country had lost their first game 5-0 to Italy who are (by the way) on top of Group 6 courtesy of two wins from two.
In all, there are seven groups of five and the big guns have expectedly set the pace. England are bossing Group 1 following their 6-0 victory over Russia while Switzerland lead Group 2 after securing two victories in two.
Reigning UEFA Women’s EURO champions, the Netherlands are yet to taste action in Group 3 but Norway – with no points or goals from this year’s European Championship – grabbed the initiative by beating their first two opponents at home, scoring ten goals and conceding two. When action resumes next month the Netherlands will open their qualification campaign against Norway – the side they beat 1-0 in the opening match of this year’s Women’s EURO – in a clash that is expected to be feisty.
In the meantime, it is already looking like Denmark – UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 runners-up – and Sweden are in for a power tussle in Group 4. While Germany might have little or no trouble navigating through Group 5. Only one match was decided in Group 7 and this year’s Women’s EURO surprise package, Austria spanked Serbia 4-0 on the road with Nina Burger scoring a hat-trick.
The next set of matches comes up between 19 and 24 October. Matches will be played home and away until 4 September 2018 after which the seven group winners will secure their places in France. Then in October and November 2018, the best four runners-up will have a chance to wrestle for one last European slot in the play-offs which will consist of two rounds of two-legged knockout ties.
For other Confederations, continental championships would determine their representatives at the World Cup.
In South America (CONMEBOL), their Copa America Femenina is scheduled to run from 4-22 April 2018 in Chile. All ten CONMEBOL member nations are eligible to participate.
The winners and runners-up will automatically qualify for France 2019, while the third-placed side gets another chance in a qualifying play-off against the fourth-placed side from CONCACAF.
CONCACAF which comprises of North, Central America and Caribbean will see the winners of the Women’s Gold Cup 2018 qualify automatically for France 2019 alongside the runners-up and third-placed side.
There are five spots up for grabs in Asia and next year’s AFC Asian Women’s Cup which takes place between 7-22 April 2018 in Jordan, will determine who goes to France.
The tournament will see eight teams split into two groups of four. The top two teams in each group qualify for France 2019 while the third-placed sides will go head to head in a play-off to decide fifth place.
In Africa, Ghana will host next year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations between 17 November and 1 December as eight teams battle for CAF’s three slots which would go to the winners, runners-up and third-placed side. The qualification series for the Women’s AFCON has been set to commence in February.
Then there is the OFC Women’s Nation Cup in Oceania which will run from 17 November to 4 December 2018 after which only the winners will book a ticket to France.
In all, 24 teams will ‘Dare to Shine’ in France between 7 June and 7 July, 2018 and the countdown has already begun. The United States of America are the FIFA Women’s World Cup defending champions.