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'I’m very, very proud of them in the guts that they showed against an opponent like this'

Vera Pauw’s Ireland suffered a 1-0 defeat to Denmark tonight, but there were lots of positives to take from the international friendly.

Vera Pauw with her players after the game.
Vera Pauw with her players after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

VERA PAUW CUT a pleased figure after tonight’s friendly against Denmark.

A 1-0 defeat at the hands of such a top team is a result she could be very happy with, a successful run-out put down at Tallaght Stadium with solid foundations laid as focus switches from the disappointment of the last campaign to excitement for the next.

Ireland showed many encouraging signs, and can take plenty of positives from their performance against the Euro 2017 runners-up, and serious contenders for the 2022 edition. 

Not only did the Girls In Green frustrate the great Danes, they showed glimpses of brilliance, played some nice football and created several chances, bouncing back from Nicoline Sorensen’s ninth minute goal, and were unlucky not to bag one of their own.

It certainly was a decent way to start ramping up preparations for the 2023 World Cup qualifiers later this year. 

“It’s a shame that we had a goal like that against us,” Pauw said afterwards. “If you take the whole game, I’m very happy that we got Denmark here. They’re so powerful and so mobile, we have learned so much from it. You could see that during the game, we already learned a lot.

“At half time, we brought some clips into the dressing room that Jan Willem [Van Ede, goalkeeping coach] had identified with the video analyst. That shows how coachable they are, how they understand from two little clips. You could see what the problem was, and it was easily fixed.

“It looked as if they were getting sharper and sharper as the game went on, they felt that they could play against them. I’m especially proud that we are working on that now, and not just kicking the ball away. That only happened two times in the first half and then in the second half, maybe at the end.

They really tried to keep the ball, to build up in the way that we discuss and in the way that we train. I’m very, very proud of them in the guts that they showed to do that against an opponent like this.

“Denmark are 14th on the world ranking list, that is because they had a few very bad years. Between 2010 and 2015, they were really in a dip, and now they are on a high again. Their ranking place doesn’t show their quality, and that is why we played with a full squad today. Belgium [opponents for Sunday's friendly] are only three places lower, a very good team also, but Denmark is by far better.”

Pauw agreed with her players’ thoughts that they showed the visitors “too much respect” in the first half, opting to sit with five at the back rather than let the shackles off and attack with purpose.

In the second half, they did just that, realising their potential more and more, with captain Katie McCabe coming closest to scoring, only for her rocket of a shot to ricochet off the crossbar.

“That’s what I say every time, they don’t know how good they are, they don’t know it yet,” Pauw continued. 

That’s what I said also in the team meeting: ‘You have to feel how good you are and these games are invaluable for that. Without these games, you will never find these limits. Now, in the second half, dare to make a step further and find your limits.’

“I think that somewhere deep down inside they were maybe a bit fearful, afraid of it. I always say, to have success, you must have the guts to fill. They showed that in the second half, so that will be part of the preparations for Belgium.

“These players have the guts to play. There were no nerves and they were really excited to get on the pitch. It’s just experience, they need to experience it [winning against big teams].”

At that particular moment, the Dutchwoman’s mind drifts to Jamie Finn, the Shelbourne ace who excelled around the middle tonight and put it up to world-class players like Chelsea superstar Pernille Harder.

jamie-finn Jamie Finn was Player of the Match. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“She came in at the last moment because yesterday Ruesha Littlejohn got a knock on her foot, a big, big bruise, it was swollen, and today we had to decide to not play her. Jamie had to step in, and then is Player of the Match, it shows what kind of quality we have in Ireland, and on the bench, and what we can grow to.”

That said, Pauw still acknowledges the gap that’s there to be bridged.

“Of course. Harder, she needed many years to get to this level. You can see Ellen Molloy and Emily Whelan, you can see their talent but at 16 years old, you have a long way to go to be at the level of Harder. But when she was 16, she didn’t have this level either.

We have the talent, we have lots of talent, and there’s more talent coming in. It’s a bright future, we need to find our limits, and today we haven’t found them yet. The only thing that I would say is that we need to have more guts in front of the goal.

“I think that we’re a bit shy in front of the goal, that’s what I said at half time. You can only score if you have the guts to really throw yourself into it, not if the ball is coming and you think, ‘Oh let’s see if I can get to the ball…’ The ball is coming, it needs to get in the goal. That is the step that we now have to take.”

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Pauw explained her reasoning for taking Heather Payne, a real bright spark in the opening 45 minutes, off at half time, with the Florida State University star jetlagged after only arriving in camp yesterday, meaning a bigger risk of injury.

With goalkeeper Marie Hourihan ruled out, DLR Waves star Eve Badana has made the step up from training this week to being named in the squad and travelling to Belgium on Sunday.

“She’s doing really well. We’ve lost Marie, she came in with an injury which is far worse than anyone thought. We have a fantastic medical staff, they identified it and they want her to have an MRI. It’s quite a bad injury in her hip. Eve will come with us to Belgium.”

With Niamh Farrelly also ruled out through injury, and uncertainty around Megan Connolly — who limped off tonight — four standby players have undergone Covid testing incase they are called upon for the weekend.

The aim, Pauw says, is to play McCabe further forward next time out, with a license to be more creative, and to shake things up in general.

“We will have a completely different team against Belgium,” she concluded.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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