Ireland learn World Cup qualifier fate as Pauw's side draw Sweden and Finland

The Girls in Green are targeting qualification for a first-ever major tournament as the road to Australia and New Zealand begins in September.

Ireland manager Vera Pauw with captain Katie McCabe.
Ireland manager Vera Pauw with captain Katie McCabe.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND have drawn with Sweden and Finland for the qualification phase of the 2023 World Cup. 

Vera Pauw’s Girls In Green will also face Slovakia and Georgia in Group A, after this afternoon’s European qualifying group stage draw for the major tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

The draw in took place in Nyon, and was streamed live on Uefa’s website.

“It’s not a bad draw,” Pauw told the FAI website after the draw was concluded. “It could be better of course. But it’s a draw [where] we have some perspective in this group.

“Of course, Sweden is a very strong team. They have qualified for the Olympics so they are one of the best three in Europe because only three from Europe are going to the Olympics. But our aim should be getting the runner-up position and there is some perspective there.

“Finland are strong but Finland are not unbeatable. We are up and we are rising. We will do our best and we also have Slovakia and Georgia so we will try to combine that because they are trips away. 

“But they are teams that are ranked below us and we should be able to get our points there. So, again, it is tough, especially the first seeded. But Finland, we’ll see what we can do and be prepared again. We knew the second pot would be a strong team and we go for it.”

Just as their male counterparts were for their World Cup qualifier draw last year, Ireland were ranked among the third seeds in the draw.

To qualify automatically for their first-ever major tournament, Ireland must top their group. The runners-up across each of the nine groups do earn a second chance, albeit through a very convoluted play-off system, as explained fully here.

Attention now switches to the football, with the qualifiers due to begin in September and full fixture details to follow in due course.

Sweden are ranked fifth in the Fifa World rankings, Finland are 24th, and Ireland are 34th. Slovakia, meanwhile, are ranked 46th and Georgia are 126th.

Sweden are tough top seeds to encounter, having qualified for every World Cup since its inception in 1991, while Finland are another top European side, though one of the more favourable second seeds to draw. Slovakia — who Ireland beat at home and away in their last World Cup qualifying campaign — are among the toughest of the fourth seeds.

“They were in a bit of a dip between 2010 and 2015,” says Pauw about Sweden. “But now they’re completely at the top again.”

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland, who recently qualified for their first major tournament in the European Championships — the Republic fell just short – join England, Austria, North Macedonia, Latvia and Luxembourg in Group D.

“From the planning, to knowing the players to already having a strategy in the team, it’s always better to have continuity in the group. So I think that is the most important thing, that there is now continuity in this group.

“I think consistency is one of the key aspects for us.”

Scotland find themselves in Group B, Wales are in Group I and reigning European champions and 2019 World Cup finalists the Netherlands are in Group C (full details below).

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A European team has not won the World Cup since 2007, with USA the reigning champions from France 2019. Sweden finished third there.

On the prospect of having crowds at Ireland’s qualifiers, Pauw adds:

“How fantastic would that be? Everybody wants to have their crowds in and we’ll do our best to get a good schedule.” 

Qualifying group stage dates

  • 13–21 September 2021
  • 18–26 October 2021
  • 22–30 November 2021
  • 4–12 April 2022
  • 29 August–6 September 2022

Uefa Play-Offs

  • 3–11 October 2022.

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Emma Duffy

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