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'We have the feeling that we can maybe do it' - Ireland's World Cup play-off push

Vera Pauw’s side are facing into a decisive double-header in September.

louise-quinn-and-manager-vera-pauw-after-the-game Ireland manager Vera Pauw with Louise Quinn after last night's 9-0 win over Georgia. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland are in pole position for second place in their 2023 World Cup qualifying group.

Last night’s 9-0 hammering of Georgia in Gori moved Vera Pauw’s team into the coveted play-off spot in Group A with two games remaining.

Screen Shot 2022-06-28 at 11.31.41 Source: Uefa.

The bid to reach a first-ever major tournament hits new heights in September; a decisive double-header lying in wait as Ireland look to secure a first-ever runners-up finish in their qualifying group and progress to play-offs for the first time since 2008.

Closest rivals Finland come to Tallaght Stadium on 1 September, with a win there sealing the Girls In Green’s progress regardless of results elsewhere, including their own trip to Slovakia five days later.

“We need to beat Finland,” Pauw told reporters in Gori last night, as quoted by The Irish Mirror. “That is our true belief because otherwise it goes to the last game and we all know what can happen there.

“If you go for a draw, it gives the last-minute outcome a chance. We want to press forward, perhaps as a compact group, and we will need to be deeper against Finland, but we will be on the front foot.”

“I hope Tallaght Stadium will be full, full, full — packed, with a lot of noise,” she added in an FAI TV interview, with tickets on sale for the expected sell-out showdown on 26 July.

Kids, players, parents, fans, everybody that wants to support us, because we really, really need that. We have two games to go and we have it in our own hands. We have the feeling that we can maybe do it, with the support in our home stadium.”

While there’s no catching the group’s runaway winners Sweden, the race is most certainly on for second place.

As things stand, Ireland are on 11 points and Finland are on 10. Slovakia have five, so the maximum they can finish on is 11, effectively ruling them out of the play-off picture.

In September’s window, Finland also play Sweden at home while Slovakia travel to minnows Georgia. If Ireland beat the Finns, none of that matters and they’re through.

If they draw, they must better Finland’s result against Sweden when they play Slovakia.

If Pauw’s side lose to Finland, they have to beat Slovakia and wait on other results. And if they lose to Finland and fail to beat Slovakia, they’re out of the running.

  • You can read more, and look at the convoluted play-off route here >

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While things could easily go out of Ireland’s hands in the high-pressure business end, goal difference will certainly turn in their favour if necessary.

“We knew going out goal difference was going to be important,” as one of last night’s scorers, Niamh Fahey, said afterwards, “so to come here in tricky conditions, play against a low block and get nine goals is a job well done.

“The most important thing is we’ve come away with nine goals and a clean sheet. A huge double-header coming up in September, can’t wait for it. First with the Finnish and then the Slovakians, we’ll be making sure we’re ready for that.”

On her own goal — her first at senior international level on her 104th cap — the Liverpool captain laughed: “That’s probably a bit of a record! I’m obviously not known for my goal-scoring abilities, I’m just glad it came off some part of me and went in. The less said about that the better!”

“It was a small bit of a Maradona, hand of God in there,” Fahey added with The Mirror.

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Emma Duffy

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