Northern Ireland are one step away from a historic first major women’s tournament finals appearance, after a 5-1 victory over the Faroe Islands at Seaview booked the team a place in the Euro 2022 qualifying play-offs at the expense of Wales.
Meanwhile, Scotland suffered heartbreak in the 95th minute after a dominant display against Finland at Easter Road. As the hosts piled forward in search of a winner to strengthen their hopes of qualifying from Group E, they were caught on the counter.
Goalkeeper Lee Alexander saved Amanda Rantanen’s initial effort as she was released through the middle, but the ball rebounded off the Finland substitute and bounced cruelly into the net. The result means Scotland are eliminated, with Finland and Portugal left to battle for top spot in the group.
England have qualified automatically as hosts of the postponed Euros which will now be played in 2022, while holders the Netherlands, their 2017 final opponents Denmark, plus Sweden, Norway, France, Belgium and Germany have all qualified automatically as group winners. Iceland have also secured their place as one of the three best runners-up.
There was an early shock in Belfast as the Faroes scored their first Group C goal in the fourth minute. Kara Djurhuus’s cross skidded through to Jensa Kannuberg Tórolvsdóttir and the unmarked forward swept in.
Two minutes later, the hosts levelled as Rachel Furness’ header from Chloe McCarron’s corner was flicked into the net by Ashley Hutton. Twelve minutes later, Kirsty McGuinness cut onto her weaker right foot before smashing into the top corner from distance to put the hosts ahead at half-time.
McCarron beat keeper Óluva Joensen from distance just before the hour, before Caitlin McGuinness, the 18-year-old sister of Kirsty, prodded in the fourth goal after some scrappy defending. Furness completed the scoring by scooping the ball in at the near post off a defender.
Wales were taking on Belarus at Rodney Parade, and hoping for Northern Ireland to drop points after a 2-2 draw in Newport and a goalless game in Belfast left Wales behind on head-to-head away goals.
In the 15th minute, Reading midfielder Jess Fishlock skipped to the byline and slipped a cross towards Natasha Harding who powered home. At that moment, Wales held the advantage but they could do nothing about the steady demolition across the Irish Sea. Rachel Rowe added a second and Fishlock slotted in a penalty, but Wales missed out.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Republic of Ireland missed out on a play-off place as two goals from Tabea Wassmuth contributed to their 3-1 defeat by Group I winners Germany. Ireland were perhaps unlucky, with Svenja Huth awarded a soft penalty which was converted by Lina Magull.
Wassmuth’s double came either side of a penalty from Arsenal’s Katie McCabe, leaving Ireland hoping for Montenegro to upset Ukraine in Kyiv. The hosts prevailed 2-1 in that game, with Ireland left to rue their own defeat in Ukraine and four dropped points against Greece.