The Netherlands defeated Scotland, 2-0 on Thursday to move to the brink of their first appearance at the Women’s World Cup. Second-half goals by Lieke Martens and Manon Melis made it a 4-1 win on aggregate that puts Netherlands into a final, two-leg playoff against Italy in November. The Italians, absent from the World Cup since USA 1999, required some second half road magic to salvage a draw in Ukraine on Wednesday and a 4-3 win on aggregate.
Italy reached the quarterfinals of the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991 and then crashed out in the group stage in 1999. They have not been back since including the last cycle when they lost the final playoff to the United States. On Wednesday they fell behind 2-0 to Ukraine who rode the coattails of 20-year old Vira Dyatel and her two goals. But Melania Gabbiadini struck eight minutes later to level it on all fronts and former Sky Blue forward Patrizia Panico won it with a goal in the 79th. From there Ukraine needed two to overcome their deficit in away goals and the Italians were able to hold on and advance.
The Netherlands-Italy playoff will open November 22 or 23 with the return match November 26 and 27. The loss by Scotland means 2014 NWSL MVP Kim Little will not be featured in next summer’s World Cup. Little played all 180 minutes and scored Scotland’s only goal—from the spot—in the home leg at Tynecastle.
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