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Ireland manager Vera Pauw.
Ireland manager Vera Pauw.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

'We can compete, now we need results' - big test for Ireland in Iceland as Euros fever takes over

Vera Pauw’s Girls In Green play two friendlies over the coming days.
Jun 11th 2021, 7:01 AM 1,636 0

EUROS FEVER IS taking over, and we’re all feeling pretty left out on these shores.

The FOMO, as it’s now so often called — Fear Of Missing Out, for those with a life away from the internet — is most definitely real.

The memories of Ireland at France 2016 come flooding back; namely those of Robbie Brady’s dramatic late winner which sank Italy and sent the Boys In Green into the last 16, and the emotional scenes which followed. 

That’s what these major tournaments are all about.

No Ireland senior women’s national team has ever experienced one, the FOMO on another level every two summers or so as clubmates head off to Euros and World Cups.

The next bid to rewrite history and reach a first-ever major tournament starts again in September, with preparations for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifiers in full swing this week amidst all of thd]e Euro 2020 hype.

Vera Pauw’s side are in Reykjavík, facing Iceland this evening [KO 6pm, live on RTÉ Player and RTÉ News Now] in the first of two back-to-back friendly internationals against their hosts.

As the Dutch boss said, Iceland are “high-calibre opposition,” currently ranked 17th in the world having qualified for Euro 2022. The double-header comes as a welcome test for Ireland, who stand 34th after a disappointing end to the last campaign.

It still feels like a missed opportunity, but it’s in the past. This is a new chapter, and it’s started quite well with recent 1-0 friendly defeats to Denmark and Belgium. Both nations are much higher ranked, so Ireland took plenty of positives from both run-outs, and looked an ever-improving side.

The plan is to keep that upward trajectory going, with 1,500 fans in attendance at Laugardalsvollur, Iceland’s national stadium, for the two games.

“Iceland are a fantastic opponent,” Pauw says, “because they are playing in the same kind of style of Sweden and Finland, who are the top two seeded teams in our World Cup qualifying group, so these friendly games will help us to prepare for those qualifiers later in the year.

“Similar to the games against Denmark and Belgium in April, we chose to go with a strong opponent so that we can challenge ourselves because this will be the last window before we begin the World Cup qualifiers in September.

“Playing against a team like Iceland allows us to further develop our game — both defensively and from an attacking perspective. We have been making positive strides in our overall development and these games are perfect for testing us in the right kind of environment.”

Little to nothing was given away this week in terms of team selection. In a recent press conference, Pauw said that “the aim really is to win” as she looks to nail down an XI for the upcoming campaign, though is missing some big names through injury.

All players who travelled are available for selection having trained this week with no injury concerns, while the entire set-up has tested negative for Covid-19.

With so many players enjoying a rich vein of club form before camp, Aoife Colvill is one many will be eager to catch a glimpse of. The Australia-born Glasgow City striker has been excellent of late and her Fifa international clearance was received just in time for this window, having switched associations.

“We will use the first game to set the dots on the is for the second game,” Pauw explained.

“It’s not like last time when we said every player must get game time. That is not the case now, because we are close to the qualification matches and when the new players show that we need to see them in the game, they will play.

“It is still friendly, it is development but it is related to the result this time.”

That’s something Diane Caldwell, a stalwart of the team, also stressed in her media interviews.

“We need to push on, you could see from the friendly games, we can compete, now we need results,” the North Carolina Courage defender said, with Shelbourne striker Saoirse Noonan and DLR Waves goalkeeper Eve Badana the others on media duty this week.

“This gives us a chance to compete against a really top team. Hopefully we can take the next step and get results on the board. For a long time we’ve been talking about how the performances have been good but we need the results to go along with it.

“We have two really tough tests against a good Iceland team so hopefully we can develop and get some really good results.”

Iceland will be strong and direct — the sides last played in 2017, a friendly which finished 0-0 — something Ireland must match in the final third, struggling in that department through the years.

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21-year-old Noonan could bolster the attack should she be given the chance to win her first cap, though is using this week for experience and as a learning curve with no indication given regarding her potential involvement.

“We’re looking at the World Cup qualifier in September, that’s what the focus is on and obviously these are preparation for that,” the Cork native said.

“Vera, Eileen [Gleeson, assistant coach] and all the backroom staff have done their work on that. Now it’s our job, as a team, to try and do it on the pitch.

“Everyone’s coming together and trying new things out. We’ll try it for the first game and if it goes well, we’ll continue doing it, and if we have to make a few changes, I’m sure Vera will do that.”

That’s the plan, with no more major tournament FOMO wanted going forward. 

The journey continues this evening.

Republic of Ireland squad (v Iceland)

Goalkeepers: Grace Moloney (Reading), Courtney Brosnan (Unattached), Eve Badana (DLR Waves)
Defenders: Keeva Keenan (Celtic), Claire O’Riordan (MSV Duisburg), Niamh Farrelly (Glasgow City), Louise Quinn (Fiorentina), Diane Caldwell (North Carolina Courage), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Claire Walsh (Peamount United), Éabha O’Mahony (Cork City), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United)
Midfielders: Jamie Finn (Shelbourne), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ciara Grant (Shelbourne), Roma McLaughlin (Connecticut Fusion), Jessica Ziu (Shelbourne), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths), Katie McCabe (Arsenal)
Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Rianna Jarrett (Unattached), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Saoirse Noonan (Shelbourne), Aoife Colvill (Glasgow City)

Read the full FAI preview here >

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Emma Duffy

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