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Road to 2015: UEFA qualifying heats up

The long road to the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 in Canada has already begun with teams competing to claim places in the record 24 team field. We know Canada is in but who is looking to join them?

Necib and France headline Group 7 of UEFA qualification and chances are they are in for happier times.
Necib and France headline Group 7 of UEFA qualification and chances are they are in for happier times.

The 2015 Women's World Cup may still be over two years away but the qualification process for the event is already well underway with several teams already out of the running and UEFA preparing for their biggest qualifying tournament to date.

UEFA faces the task of narrowing down a field of 46 countries to determine which 8 teams will represent them in 2015. They have already conducted a preliminary tournament which featured the 8 lowest ranked teams competing to claim the final four spots in the Group Stage which will consist of 42 teams.

The preliminary tournaments were hosted by Malta and Lithuania at the start of April. Group A in Malta was made up of the host country, Albania, Latvia, and Luxembourg while Group B in Lithuania was the hosts, Georgia, Faroe Islands, and Montenegro.

The format for the first round of games was that each team in the group would play the other teams once each with the top two sides in the table then advancing to the next round of qualification. In Group A it was Malta and Albania dominating the event claiming 7 points each from their three matches while Latvia and Luxembourg were eliminated from qualification having managed just 1 point each. In Group B Faroe Islands led the way picking up 7 points and they will be joined in the next round by Montenegro who advanced with 5 points thanks to a key 2-0 win over Georgia. Georgia managed to collect 3 points but that was not enough as they were eliminated along with Lithuania who only picked up a single point.

Now UEFA is on to the next round of qualification with the Groups being drawn on Tuesday morning. The field has been narrowed down to 42 teams who were drawn into 7 groups. Each team will face the other 5 countries in their group twice each, once at home and once away, for a total of 10 games. Following the conclusion of the group stage in September 2014 the winner of each group will claim a place in the World Cup.

That takes care of 7 of UEFA's 8 World Cup berths but still leaves the final place to sort out. The 8th ticket will be sorted out via a four team playoff made up of the top runners up based on their record against the countries that finished 1st through 5th in the group (eliminates record against bottom team). Those four teams will face off in playoff matches over the fall of 2014 with the winning team claiming the final UEFA spot in the World Cup.

There is a long ways to go but with this morning's draw qualification for the 2015 World Cup in Canada is already getting serious. Here are the full groups for UEFA qualifying which gets underway this September.

Group 1

Germany - Russia - Republic of Ireland - Slovakia - Slovenia - Croatia

Group 2

Italy - Spain - Czech Republic - Romania - Estonia - FYR Macedonia

Group 3

Denmark - Iceland - Switzerland - Serbia - Israel - Malta

Group 4

Sweden - Scotland - Poland - Northern Ireland - Bosnia-Herzegovina - Faroe Islands

Group 5

Norway - Netherlands - Belgium - Portugal - Greece - Albania

Group 6

England - Ukraine - Belarus - Wales - Turkey - Montenegro

Group 7

France - Finland - Austria - Hungary - Bulgaria - Kazakhstan