The Netherlands will face Switzerland in a play-off for Europe’s final Women’s World Cup berth. The European champions comprehensively defeated Denmark 4-1 over two legs and Switzerland navigated their way past Belgium on the away-goals rule.
Netherlands cruise - For a moment the Danish seemed to claw their way back into the tie with an early goal from Nadia Nadim converting a spot kick after Dominique Janssen had fouled Pernille Harder. Denmark had lost the first leg 2-0, but the Dutch quickly dashed Danish hopes with a brace from Lineth Beerensteyn.
Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman praised her players for their combativeness. She said: “We fought and at times this game wasn’t that pretty, but we won 1-2 and have advanced to the final of the play-offs. That was the target.”
Switzerland do just enough - The Swiss had secured a valuable 2-2 result in the first leg and at home they contained Belgium easily enough. The Belgians probed and poked, but never exerted any real pressure. Instead Switzerland scored midway through the first half. Tine de Caigny levelled the scores, but Belgium failed to score a crucial second goal.
"Of course we are disappointed," said Belgium’s coach Ives Serneels. "I told the players that we missed a unique opportunity to play the final of the play-offs. "
First legs - First-half goals from Lineth Beerensteyn and Shanice van de Sanden earned the Netherlands a precious 2-0 win at the Rat Verlegh Stadion in Breda in a repeat of the Euro 2017 final when the Dutch also triumphed. The hosts have been enjoying great popularity since their Euro victory on home soil – the 16,000 available tickets were sold out in 50 minutes. In Leuven, Belgium twice took the lead before allowing Switzerland to claw their way back into the game twice. Alisha Lehmann would twice equalise for the visitors.
Final - The Netherlands and Switzerland will meet each in a two-legged final with the matches taking place in November. The last European ticket for the World Cup in France next year will be at stake. The Dutch will be firm favorites going into the final: The reigning European champion has never failed to qualify for the Women's World Cup, primarily because that reigning European champion has in almost every instance been Germany.
European participants - From the European confederation England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and Spain have already qualified for the tournament. The 2019 Women’s World Cup will run for one month from June 7 until July 7 next year.
FIFA’s global strategy - On Wednesday the world governing body launched a first-ever global strategy for women's football, with the aim of creating an international women’s club competition and doubling the participation of women in the game to 60 million by 2026. FIFA is understood to be keen on launching a new women’s club competition, a ‘Women’s World League.’ The governing body is also contemplating youth development tournaments and a FIFA women’s futsal competition as a route to grow and expand the women’s game.