A 'sizeable challenge' awaits in a game Ireland can ill afford to lose

Tuesday’s clash with Finland is vital to Ireland’s prospects of making the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The Ireland team in a huddle before last night's World Cup qualifier defeat to Sweden at Tallaght Stadium.
The Ireland team in a huddle before last night's World Cup qualifier defeat to Sweden at Tallaght Stadium.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IRELAND’S BID TO qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup began with a defeat, but the performance has left Vera Pauw’s side confident that an important trip to Helsinki can yield a positive result.

Sweden, who are ranked second in the world, needed an unfortunate Louise Quinn own goal late in the first half to secure all three points last night at Tallaght Stadium.

Taking anything from the Swedes would have been a bonus that Ireland hadn’t budgeted for, but registering their first point(s) of the campaign is likely to be essential for the Girls in Green against Finland on Tuesday.

Although they would have the benefit of a game in hand, a defeat for Ireland will leave them nine points behind both Sweden and Finland. Even at this early stage, that may prove to be an unassailable gap.

“A draw away to the second seeds isn’t bad, because then you’ll get them back in Dublin near the end of the group,” said Gavin Cooney on the latest instalment of The Football Family – a podcast which is exclusive to The42 members.

“If they do lose, then all of a sudden they’re already adrift. I know they’ll have a game in hand but – another cliché – it’s easier to have points on the board.

“A draw would be fine and Ireland look like a side who could easily get a draw away from home to that standard of opposition now because we saw their structure and their organisation last night.

“If they could just add a more coherent counter-attack – which hopefully they’ll be able to against a side not as good as Sweden – you’d be pretty optimistic.”

Buoyed by their qualification for next year’s European Championship, Finland extended their competitive undefeated run to 10 games by kicking off their World Cup qualifying campaign with wins over Slovakia and Georgia.

“They move the ball really fast, they break at speed and they’re really good on the counter [attack], which can be a bit of a concern at times for Ireland,” said Emma Duffy when assessing Tuesday’s opponents.

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“They play kind of similarly to Sweden in that they try to pull their opponents wide and then get it into the box. They look very solid defensively, they put a lot of pressure on the player with the ball and they kind of hunt in packs.

“A sizeable challenge definitely lies ahead and we know that they’re certainly targeting second place. They’re second seeds so [Ireland] do need to take something from them in Helsinki next week.”

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