FOOTBALL : Tuesday evening saw the final games in the group stages of the UEFA Women´s Nations League. We look at three matches, 18 goals, controversy, and tears!
England and the Netherlands were on equal points at the top of the League A table for Group 1. However, the Dutch side had one goal in their favour giving them the goal difference lead before their crucial final matches in the group stages.
Only one team would go through to the knockout stages of the Nations League. Then, the two finalists would secure their places at the Olympics next year in France.
The controversy surrounding the game against Scotland arose because England needed all 3 points plus, they needed to score more goals than the Netherlands to close the goal difference gap. Only a win was acceptable for England to have a chance.
Going into the match against Scotland, England needed to score at least 3 goals more than the Scots to have a chance of qualifying. However, as Scotland had no chance of qualifying, it was also in their interests for England to progress and qualify for the Olympics.
The bizarre situation would mean if England qualified, the team going through to the Olympics would be TEAM GB, meaning players from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could also be called up.
Nations League A – Group 1 – Scotland v England
The match was played at Hampden Park Stadium in Glasgow. The Scottish side started the game bottom of the table, and with England scoring an amazing 6 goals, that position did not change. England took all 3 points.
Alex Greenwood opened the scoreline after just 12 minutes with her header from a Beth Mead corner.
Lauren James had a fantastic run down the wing before passing to Lauren Hemp in front of goal. Hemp´s strike somehow managed to hit the post.
Then Lauren James had an amazing double score, with 2 goals just one minute apart. As the Scot´s side stood asking for “hand ball”, the play continued, and James got her first as her ball was deflected, wrong footing the keeper and went into the net. Her second, was a powerful shot from just outside the box into the top corner of the goal.
Beth Mead, assisted by Lauren James rounded off the first half with a goal one minute into stoppage time.
The first half ended 0-4
The second half saw a goal from Fran Kirby tapped past the keeper just 4 minutes in.
There was some frantic play by Scotland in the dying stages of the second half, and a goal looked likely, but never came.
Lucy Bronze scored the final goal of the match with a header at the far post in the final minute of stoppage time.
Scotland were taken for six!
Heartbreak and tears
Despite their 0-6 victory over Scotland, England didn´t manage to qualify as the Netherlands crept back to the top of the table in goal difference as they scored their 4th goal of the match against Belgium in the 95th minute and ended England´s Olympic hopes.
As the England players learned the news, some broke down on the pitch in tears. The dream was over!
Also read: The Lionesses and the FIFA World Cup
Nations League A Group 4 – Spain v Sweden
The first goal came in the opening minute at the Estadio La Rosaleda in Malaga when Olme put Sweden ahead. Then, ten minutes later Paralluelo equalised.
Both teams were on fire, when just a few minutes later, Sweden were once again in the lead with a goal from midfielder, Asllani. It was “edge of your seat” play when again the third goal came for Sweden. This time it was from Blackstenius in the 29th minute.
The first half ended 1-3
Football is often described as “a game of two halves”. The second half of Spain v Sweden certainly proved that to be the case.
Athenea del Castillo narrowed the gap with her goal after 51 minutes.
Then Caldentey, assisted by Batlle scored her first of two goals in the 79th minute bringing things all square at 3-3.
A few minutes later Benitez, with the help of Paralluelo scored putting Spain into the lead, and then Caldentey, again assisted by Paralluelo, came through with her second in the 89th minute.
Spain won 5-3 and go through clear leaders in their group.