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Different challenge from 11-0 hammering but Ireland win expected in Gori

Vera Pauw’s Girls In Green face Georgia in their next World Cup qualifier today.

Vera Pauw speaking to the media last week as players from Newbridge town FC look on.
Vera Pauw speaking to the media last week as players from Newbridge town FC look on.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A WIN IS widely expected, but nothing in sport — like life — is ever guaranteed.

It’s fair to say that the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup dream is more alive than ever with three games to go in Group A, the first of those against minnows Georgia in Gori this evening [KO 5pm Irish time, live on RTÉ 2].

Victory would see them leapfrog play-off rivals Finland into second place ahead of September’s decisive double-header, when Vera Pauw’s side welcome the Finns to Dublin  and then travel to Slovakia.

They’re certainly in play-off territory, the bid to reach a first-ever major tournament hitting new heights as they move into pole position.

But not without a win today.

Pauw has a full deck to choose from, with all players fit and available for selection. The Ireland boss confirmed yesterday that Courtney Brosnan will start in goal, having established herself as number one through this campaign, as she stressed that this is not a game for experimenting.

The last time these sides met at Tallaght Stadium in November, the Girls In Green romped to a record-breaking 11-0 win. Hat-trick hero Denise O’Sullivan and captain fantastic Katie McCabe were among those to shine brightest that night, as is so often the case.

McCabe owned the left side of the pitch, always a vital cog in the XI, but it’s worth noting that the Arsenal star is out of season this time around. Many are, while the sweltering conditions expected and the return of several key players to the Georgia team having missed the reverse fixture due to Covid, pose other challenges.

“This is a very important game for us with the three points being our target,” Pauw explained. “We know what we have to do and we will have a game-plan that will take everything into account.

People should not expect the same situation from when we played Georgia last year because they were missing some players and they are also playing at home in this game. But we are ready; we have trained hard, prepared well and we will go out to win the game.”

All of that said, Georgia are rock-bottom of the group with six defeats from six, 41 goals conceded and zero scored. They’re 124th in Fifa’s world rankings, while Ireland recently moved to a record-equalling high of 27th.

Ahead of this rearranged fixture — it should have been the campaign opener last September — Pauw’s side completed a 10-day training camp in Turkey.

They defeated Philippines 1-0 in an international friendly in Antalya as part of their preparations, while a scrimmage match directly afterwards saw more valuable minutes banked.

The squad flew to Tbilisi by charter flight yesterday, and have been based there up until travelling to Gori on matchday.

Mural Ladies F.Ball A new mural was unveiled in Kilnamanagh last week. Source: MAXWELLS DUBLIN

“At this stage of the campaign, every game is so important,” Megan Connolly noted. “There’s no point in us looking too far into the future when we haven’t even done this one.

“We want to improve every single game, every single camp, no matter the opponent. We want to get better and better and better.”

“We have a full squad to choose from, with no injuries, and that is a huge credit to our backroom staff because players came in from different situations regarding their fitness and whether they were in season or in pre-season,” Pauw added.

“But we have worked hard to build up their fitness during the training camp in Turkey. We feel that we are ready for this game against Georgia.”

Ready, they must be. Now or never.

A win expected, and most importantly, a major slip-up to be avoided.

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion), Grace Moloney (Reading), Naoisha McAloon (Durham)

Defenders: Jess Ziu (Shelbourne), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (Manchester United), Claire O’Riordan (MSV Duisburg), Jessie Stapleton (Shelbourne), Éabha O’Mahony (Boston College), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United), Chloe Mustaki (Shelbourne)

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Ciara Grant (Hearts), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses), Roma McLaughlin (Connecticut Fusion), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City)

Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United), Saoirse Noonan (Shelbourne).

Source: FAI TV/YouTube

Read more about Ireland-Georgia here >

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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