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2015 Women's World Cup

Italy, Netherlands win first legs of UEFA playoff semis

Melania Gabbiadini scored the game-winner for Italy on Saturday vs. Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Melania Gabbiadini scored the game-winner for Italy on Saturday vs. Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Italy and the Netherlands inched closer to World Cup qualification on Saturday with respective 2-1 victories over Ukraine and Scotland in the first legs of the UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff semifinals.

The four teams are competing for the eighth and final World Cup berth from Europe. They made the playoff as the four best second-place finishers from the group stage.

Italy prevailed at home over Ukraine behind first-half goals by Valentina Cernoia and Melania Gabbiadini, which bookended a goal by Ukraine’s Daryna Apanaschenko in the 24th minute. Gabbiadini’s eventual game-winner came in first-half stoppage time. Italy, which went to two of the first three World Cups but hasn’t qualified since 1999, heads to Lviv with the lead, though Ukraine obtained an important away goal.

The Netherlands also scored twice in the first half en route to victory over Scotland. Lieke Martens opened the scoring in the 10th minute and Manon Melis added a second for the Dutch from the penalty spot. But 2014 NWSL MVP Kim Little kept hopes alive for Scotland, converting a penalty kick of her own four minutes after halftime.  Scotland will now need to win in Rotterdam on Thursday to advance to the two-leg final, but a 1-0 win won’t cut it since the Dutch scored two goals away in Edinburgh.

Already qualified from UEFA for the 2015 World Cup are group winners England, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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