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International Break Roundup: Asllani Scores; Svava Assists; Four Madristas Feature for Spain; Kenti Plays Ninety vs. Puerto Rico

Madridistas played a key role in securing World Cup qualification for their respective countries.

Sweden v Republic of Ireland - FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Qualifier Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Denmark 2-0 Azerbaijan (FIFA WWCQ)

By: Yash Thakur

Søndergaard lined up Denmark in a 3-4-3. Sofie Svava started as the LWB and Stine Larsen led the attack with Kühl and Gejl on either side of her. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, went with what was a compact 4-5-1.

Denmark found an opener in the 2nd minute, when Svava, with space on the left, swung in a brilliant cross that found the head of Stine Larsen in the box, who put it away for her 7th goal in the qualification campaign. This was also Svava’s 9th assist in the FIFA WWC qualifiers.

While Denmark largely dominated, it still wasn’t an impressive performance in terms of converting that dominance into tangible numbers on the sheet. They were far from impressive in front of goal — a theme that has been prevalent in the last two qualifiers. There were a lot of suboptimal attempts from long range, while some close-range finishes were messed up by players. In all, they couldn’t translate their territorial dominance into clear chances.

There were individual standout performers though. Stine Larsen, who opened the scoring, could have easily had at least three-four goals on the evening. The 66th minute substitute, Karen Holmgaard, who made her return to the side after three years, put in a commanding performance in the center of the park. She was composed in her passing and distribution. Her presence provided a sizable improvement both in and out of possession over Troelsgaard and Junge-Pedersen. To top it off, Holmgaard managed to score off of a cross from the right, arriving at the far post to convert in the 76th minute.

Both Kühl and Gejl produced some good moments in their 1v1 duels by beating their respective markers. Gejl hit the post with a cross from the left, which resulted in a scramble, but Simone Boye couldn’t put it away in the 61st minute of the game.

Svava had a great game beyond the assist as well. She almost picked up another assist from a set-piece situation but the subsequent header was saved. While some of her crosses were poorly hit, she found lots of joy on the left, taking some shots as well.

Møller remained an unused substitute in the game.

With this victory, Denmark maintain their flawless record: 8/8 wins, 36 goals scored, and 2 goals conceded.

Sweden 1-1 Ireland (FIFA WWCQ)

By: Om Arvind

Peter Gerhardsson lined up Sweden in a 3-4-1-2/3-4-3 formation against Ireland’s compact 5-4-1; Kosovare Asllani started as a roaming attacking midfielder behind Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig. The dynamic interchanges between those three were excellent. Asllani was a menace between the lines and, much like Chelsea vs. Real Madrid in the men’s Champions League game tonight, the front two occupied defenders and pulled them out of position to facilitate runs in behind. Bennison also did a great job of conducting play from the right and bursted forward opportunistically.

Sweden didn’t create at great volume from this scheme but fashioned a few high-quality chances. Hurtig got a header from a very good shot location and Asllani fired an effort off the bar from a 1v1 situation.

Ireland’s threat was next to nothing, but they capitalized on a set-piece and some good fortune to take a lead into the half.

Gerhardsson switched up the scheme in the 56th minute, bringing on Fridolina Rolfö for center-back Linda Sembrandt and Filipa Angeldahl for Hanna Bennison. Rolfö operated as a narrow right winger and moved Hurtig to the left. Additionally, Asllani became more aggressive with her runs, creating front six looks once the fullbacks had bombed forward.

The fluid interchanges and play through the block disappeared, but Sweden were able to assault the box relentlessly, ensuring immense volume. Eventually, Asllani was slipped through going over the top and she converted, rubber-stamping a classy performance.

Although Ireland were able to hold on for the draw, Sweden were the much better side and should’ve won. Nevertheless, the split points secured World Cup Qualification for the latter and, thus, they will be happy enough with the result.

Scotland 0-2 Spain (FIFA WWCQ)

By: Yash Thakur

Jorge Vilda initially lined up the team in 3-4-2-1 formation, with Pereira-Ivana-Mapi forming the back three. Olga and Sheila García were the two wing-backs. Laia reprised her role as the defensive midfielder while Alexia and Jenni operated in behind Esther as the striker. Both Alexia and Jenni dropped off regularly to receive and drifted out wide to provide support. Vilda later switched to a 4-3-3 with the substitutions of Ona Batlle and Barbara Latorre in the 75th minute.

Scotland, on the other hand, were deployed in their typical 4-2-3-1. Cuthbert was seen in a deeper box-to-box midfield role alongside Sam Kerr. Weir operated as the #10, behind the frontline of Claire Emslie-Marta Thomas-Abi Harrison.

The game started off in a frantic fashion, as Scotland quickly found themselves in behind Spain with a ball over the top. The subsequent cross found Weir, who played a pass across goal, needed a sliding block from Olga at the far post. Following this sequence, it was largely one-way traffic. In the 14th minute, Alexia earned a foul in the box and Hermoso converted from the spot.

Spain found most of their success playing down the right hand side or when quickly switching play to that side. Laia Aleixandri looked really comfortable on the ball as the #6 in the team. She was calm in possession and picked out passes quite well. Sheila García was really dynamic with her supporting runs.

Scotland were aggressive in their duels, which resulted in a lot of fouls and four yellow cards. Spain almost managed to increase their lead via a set-piece but it was called offside.

Spain did find their second goal in the 78th minute thanks to an excellent combination between Alexia and Hermoso in the box, before the latter notched a brace.

Esther, who played 75 minutes, was primarily tasked with occupying the defensive line and making runs off-the-shoulder of defenders. She did that well, trying to create some cut-back opportunities. She did get on the end of crosses as well but couldn’t turn any goalwards. Esther was relentless with her pressing as well.

Olga had a relatively quiet game in the LWB role, apart from the big block at the start of the game. She joined in attack but her crosses weren’t good and, with Spain channeling a lot of their attacks down the right, wasn’t as involved.

Ivana showcased her ability to read the game with some good, aggressive defending. She dealt with the few crosses into the box quite well too. Although a shot by Cuthbert almost bounced off of her head into the goal, aside from that, it was an assured performance. She initially operated as the middle CB in a back three and later and the RCB in a back four.

Teresa was brought in the final minute of normal time in place of Aitana. She didn’t have much to do but was able to show off good defensive intelligence when she won the ball back from Weir. Maite Oroz, Claudia Zornoza, and Misa remained as unused substitutes.

Spain won the game 2-0 and secured their ticket to the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, maintaining a perfect record of 6/6 wins, 45 goals scored, and zero conceded so far in the qualifiers.

Mexico 6-0 Puerto Rico (CONCACAF)

By: Grant Little

Mexico defeated Puerto Rico 6-0 to claim the top spot in Group A. The result ensured that Mexico advances to the Concacaf W Championships, which they will host in Monterrey. Prior to kick off, Kenti Robles gave a speech to the fans. She thanked the spectators for coming, asked them to be respectful, and ended the speech with an impassioned “Viva Mexico!”

It didn’t take long for Mexico to get on the board. In the 13th minute, Lizabeth Ovalle cut past two Puerto Rican defenders before slotting the ball into the back of the net. Two minutes later, Mexico doubled their advantage. Katty Martinez capitalized on some confusion on a corner kick. She was the first to pounce and struck it into the back of the net.

Mexico made it 3-0 in the 19th minute. Martinez turned provider and set up Myra Delgadillo and El Tri took a three-goal lead into the half.

El Tri continued to dominate Puerto Rico in the second half. Ovalle scored her second in the 52nd minute before substitute Diana Ordonez made it 5-0.

El Tri continued to push for more goals and got their sixth and final goal in stoppage time. Maria Sánchez curled a low free-kick into the bottom corner with the last kick of the game.

Mexico won on the day and topped Group A, qualifying for the Concacaf W Championship.