Northern Ireland, Russia and Switzerland came through three tense play-offs to earn the last spots at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022.
Already in the finals from 6 to 31 July next year alongside hosts England were the nine qualifying group winners and the three best runners-up: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, holders the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. The other six runners-up were the teams playing off.
Russia reached their sixth final tournament out of the last seven as, just as in the 2009 play-offs against Scotland, they made the most of a first-leg away win. Both teams had chances, with home goalkeeper Elvira Todua making more than one key save to thwart Portugal’s hopes of repeating their 2017 finals debut.
Switzerland denied Czech Republic a debut finals after the first-ever UEFA Women’s EURO play-off penalty shoot-out. Early in the second half, Kateřina Svitková gave the away side the advantage when she struck from distance for her second goal of the tie. The Swiss then made two substitutions and, three minutes after coming on, Coumba Sow latched onto a Lia Wälti pass to equalise. There were no more goals and in a shoot-out that swung both ways, it was Svitková who hit the woodwork with the last Czech kick.
Northern Ireland are heading to their first senior women’s tournament after completing the job following an away-leg victory. Despite being further depleted by the loss of top scorer Rachel Furness to injury on Friday, Northern Ireland increased their aggregate advantage on 55 minutes when Marissa Callaghan controlled Julie Nelson’s ball and touched in past Kateryna Samson. Ukraine could not force a goal and had Natiya Pantsulaya sent off late on, before Nadene Caldwell sparked celebrations with her late clincher.
Nelli Korovkina’s goal gave Russia a win that left them in a good position. Portugal had the better of the first half but it was the visitors who struck on 52 minutes when Marina Fedorova rattled the crossbar and Korovkina reacted first to head in.
Northern Ireland, who started qualifying ranked 32nd of 48 entrants, have an advantage to take home after victory in the first-ever play-off game. Rachel Furness gave the visitors a fifth-minute lead when she pounced on a loose pass, though she later went off injured, not long after Daryna Apanaschenko headed an equaliser for 2009 qualifiers Ukraine from Iya Andrushchak’s cross midway through the first half. However, close to the hour, Simone Magill latched onto Sarah McFadden’s header and produced a cool finish.
Ana-Maria Crnogorčević’s 90th-minute penalty for Switzerland cancelled out Kateřina Svitková’s own spot kick early in the second half to leave Czech Republic with a tougher task if they are to earn a first qualification. Sandy Maendly’s corner for Switzerland hit the bar early on, before Julia Stierli brought down Andrea Stašková to allow Svitková to put the hosts ahead; however, Crnogorčević profited when the Czech goalscorer fouled Swiss substitute Irina Pando.