AAP/PA Images Sam Kerr is Australia's superstar.
Closer Look
Star players, managers, experience - A guide to Ireland's World Cup opponents
Vera Pauw’s side will face Australia, Canada and Nigeria in Group B next summer.

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland women’s team’s World Cup fate is crystal clear.

Vera Pauw’s side are in Group B alongside co-hosts Australia, Olympic gold medallists Canada and strong fourth seeds Nigeria next summer. Touted the, ‘Group of Death’ by many, it’s difficult, but doable.

The Girls In Green kick off their first-ever major tournament against the Matildas in Sydney on opening day, Thursday, 20 July, at 8pm local time or 11am in Ireland. Then it’s coast-to-coast treks to Perth and then Brisbane, facing Canada on Wednesday, 26 July [8pm local / 1pm Irish] and Nigeria on Monday, 1 August [8pm local / 1pm Irish].

Every game will be live on RTÉ, with ticket applications now open for Irish fans.  

The top two from each group progress. Advancement certainly looks challenging, but not impossible or unlikely, with potential for a Group D opponent — perhaps Euro 2022 champions England — thereafter.

Here’s a closer look at Ireland’s Group B opponents.


Fifa World Ranking: 13 (Ireland are ranked 24th.)

Manager: Tony Gustavsson.

The Swede has been in charge since September 2020, when he filled the void left by interim head coach Ante Milicic. Gustavsson had an early managerial career in men’s domestic football before taking the reins at women’s club Tyresö, where he enjoyed a successful tenure an steered them to the 2014 Champions League final. He worked as USA women’s assistant coach, first to compatriot Pia Sundhage and then Jill Ellis, thereafter, and his mantra is “one day better”. It’s fair to say he’s under ever-rising pressure Down Under.

Star player: Sam Kerr.

The Chelsea superstar is undoubtedly the face of this Matildas team; she recently became the first female footballer to feature on the cover of the Fifa video game series and finished third in the Ballon d’Or. Kerr, 29, is their record goal-scorer and captain, destined to cause problems for any defences she encounters. 

Irish-eligible youngster Mary Fowler is another of their stars. She recently joined Manchester City, with most of the team playing their club football in England or Sweden.

louise-quinn-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-third-goal-with-katie-mccabe James Crombie / INPHO Louise Quinn scored the winner against Australia. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Past meetings: Last September’s friendly at Tallaght Stadium, which Ireland won 3-2 to halt a seven-game losing streak, was their first clash. It was a huge turning point for Ireland, a major confidence boost ahead of World Cup qualification, but expect a very different Australia next summer.

How was their qualifying campaign? The Matildas qualified automatically as co-hosts alongside New Zealand. They still took part in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup — one of the top three teams from the 2018 edition who progressed directly to finals. Withdrawals and controversy effectively hampered the competition in January, but Australia will have been disappointed with their quarter-final exit at the hands of Colin Bell’s South Korea.

Do they have much major tournament experience? Australia have featured at every World Cup (eight) since 1995. They reached three quarter-finals in a row — 2007, 2011 and 2015 — while their last appearance ended at the last 16 stage when Norway triumphed on penalties in 2019. The Aussies finished fourth at the Olympic Games last year, when they fell to a 1-0 semi-final defeat to Sweden, while Canada won it out. 


Fifa World Ranking: 7

Manager: Beverly Priestman.

The Englishwoman has been in the job since October 2020, and she led the team to their first-ever Olympic gold medal the following summer. Priestman has worked her way up the Canadian women’s football managerial ranks, coaching the U17s and then U20s from 2013 to 2018, and was assistant coach to the senior team under long-time mentor John Herdman. She also acted as England number two to Phil Neville from 2018 to 2020.

Star player: Christine Sinclair.

Just like when you think of Australia, you think of Kerr; when you think of Canada, you think of Sinclair. The 39-year-old captain has a record 190 goals in 317 caps, and is a legendary figure for the Maple Leafs.

But they have plenty more star quality: 21-year-old Jordyn Huitema could be the heir to her throne, while Irish fans may be familiar with Chelsea duo Jessie Fleming and Kadeisha Buchanan, and Ashley Lawrence of PSG.

soccer-matildas-training AAP / PA Images Canada manager Beverly Priestman. AAP / PA Images / PA Images

Past meetings: One — a friendly at the 2014 Cyprus Cup, which Canada won 2-1.

How was their qualifying campaign? Canada qualified as CONCACAF Women’s Championship runners-up to USA. Both progressed directly to this summer’s final tournament as the two highest-ranked teams. There, they won their group, containing Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago, with a 100% record, before beating Jamaica 3-0, and then falling to USA by the minimum in July’s final.

Do they have much major tournament experience? Like Australia, this is their eighth consecutive — and total – appearance at the World Cup. Their previous best performance was a fourth-place finish in 2003, while they reached the quarter-finals and last 16 of the last two tournaments (they were hosts in 2015). Canada are also the defending Olympic gold medallists, reigning supreme in Tokyo after back-to-back bronzes.


Fifa World Ranking: 45

Manager: Randy Waldrum

The American took the reins in October 2020, and juggles the job with his commitments as head coach of University of Pittsburgh Panthers women’s football team. Waldrum was appointed technical advisor of Nigeria in 2017, and was expected to soon take the head coach job but originally turned it down. An experienced coach, he has also previously managed Trinidad and Tobago and was at the helm at Houston Dash, the same NWSL club Pauw coached. 

uefa-champions-league-women-football-match-football-womens-champions-league-fc-barcelona-v-sl-benfica-spain Marc Graupera Aloma / Dppi Asisat Oshoala. Marc Graupera Aloma / Dppi / Dppi

Star player: Asisat Oshoala.

The Barcelona striker is the superstar, and focal point, of this team. 28-year-old Oshoala became the first African player to score in a Champions League final in 2020, and made more history as the first to win it in 2021.

Atletico Madrid’s Rasheedat Ajibade and captain Onome Ebi are two more key players for the Super Falcons.

Past meetings: None.

How was their qualifying campaign? Nigeria booked their ticket as fourth-place finishers at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. In the knockout stages, they beat Cameroon 1-0 before falling to a semi-final penalty-shootout defeat to Morocco. Zambia prevailed in the third-place play-off, while South Africa won the tournament outright. 

Do they have much major tournament experience? Nigeria have been at every World Cup in history, which is nine on the bounce. They reached the quarter-final in 1999 and got out of their group in 2019 (the top three advanced back then). Nigeria have three Olympic appearances in the books, the last of those in 2008,  Nigeria have dominated in Africa of late, and have won four of the last six Women’s African Cup of Nations.

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