Scotland and Portugal were handed the advantage of playing at home throughout the European qualifying playoffs for next year’s Women’s World Cup.
Friday’s draw for the nine-team playoffs saw Scotland paired against Austria, a European Championship quarterfinalist two months ago, with the winner advancing to host Ireland.
Portugal welcomes Belgium, also a Euro 2022 quarterfinalist, and the winner gets to host Iceland five days later
Wales was drawn at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina and the winner travels to face Switzerland five days later. All games are played from Oct. 6 to 11.
Two teams will advance directly to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and one more to the intercontinental playoffs in February.
World Cup places are awarded to the two playoff winners with the best overall record in qualifying. The other playoff winner enters the intercontinental playoffs where 10 teams compete for the final three places in the newly expanded 32-nation lineup.
Nine European teams already earned their place at the July 20 to Aug. 20 tournament by winning their qualifying group. They are: Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
Spain’s female soccer referees strike ahead of league start
MADRID — Spain’s female soccer referees have called a strike as they demand better pay and working conditions, putting in danger the start of the domestic women’s league. The referees issued a statement late Thursday saying they had “taken the decision to not work any matches of the women’s first division under the present working and economic conditions.” The league is scheduled to start play on Saturday. This will be the first season of a fully professional women’s league in Spain, after its players campaigned for years for better working conditions and pay. But the referees argue they have been left behind. They are asking for improved wages, saying that the €320 (US$322) referees make and the €160 (US$161) assistants make for each match is not enough.