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Defeated but undeterred, Ireland captain 'really proud' as focus now switches to decisive Euro qualifier

‘In the second half, we showed what we were about,’ says Katie McCabe after German loss.

BEATEN BUT BRAVE, now on to the next.

It was unlikely to be anything but a heavy Germany win, and as Ireland manager Vera Pauw said herself a 3-0 defeat was “not a bad result at all” in Essen. Although they surrendered top spot in Group I, the Girls In Green’s afternoon was certainly not a failure.

katie-mccabe-and-giulia-gwinn Ireland captain Katie McCabe on the ball this afternoon. Source: Tim Groothuis/INPHO

It was inevitable that Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s European heavyweights would return to the summit, and will qualify directly for England 2022. It’s something Pauw has stressed since she took the Ireland job 12 months ago.

They’re ranked second in the world, but the Dutch boss argues they’re the best on the planet. And they’ve been ruthless in this campaign so far, scoring 34 goals in five wins and conceding zero.

Whatever happened today, happened, but 32nd-ranked Ireland needed to keep the score down in the grand scheme of things.

They did just that, limiting Germany to three first-half goals through Marina Hegering, Dzsenifer Marozsán and Lea Schüller. The second period was much more positive from an Irish perspective, and that pleased everyone involved.

None more so than captain Katie McCabe.

“It was obviously really difficult,” the Arsenal star told RTÉ presenter Peter Collins from pitch-side in Essen, when asked what it was like facing such formidable opponents.

“It’s our first competitive game in over six months. For me, on behalf of the squad here, we want to thank the frontline workers for all the work they have done and are continuing to do during this difficult time.

“We knew what we were up against, a really, really strong German team and they showed their dominance in the first half especially — scored a wonder goal and then we conceded off two of our mistakes as well, so obviously that was disappointing. 

“We organised it at half time and looked for them to stop playing in between us,” she added, echoing the words of Pauw in her own post-match media duties.

“We tightened up, got compact. I’m actually really proud of us. In the second half, we showed what we were about. We started putting a bit more pressure on them and frustrating them and we’ll definitely take that confidence into next month.”

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23 October brings Ireland’s crunch game against second-place rivals Ukraine — who they edged 3-2 in Tallaght last year, and who Germany have beaten 8-0 twice. 

Once McCabe and co. avoid defeat in Kiev, they will be guaranteed a second-place finish in Group I. Runners-up is the target now, with top spot and the best three runners-up across the nine groups earning direct qualification for the delayed finals in England. The remaining runners-up progress to play-offs.

And the Dubliner is certainly positive about the prospect of reaching a first-ever major tournament.

“We keep going,” she said. “We always knew it was going to be very difficult against the Germans, especially out here, but we’ve got a massive game next month against Ukraine which will be tough again – it’s an away game. We’ll work on what we can improve on from this game and take it into next month.”

irish-team-after-the-match

Reflecting on the nations’ previous meeting in front of a record crowd last October, McCabe recalls: “We started the game really, really well, went 2-0 up, but then again, some of our mistakes really cost us to concede.

“Next month is about eliminating those mistakes and making sure we are clinical in the final third to score the goals.”

That’s hugely important, with the goal now to create more opportunities and press forward more and more against Ukraine with creative players like herself, Ruesha Littlejohn and Denise O’Sullivan given the chance to play football.

That was certainly limited today, facing the might of Germany.

“For sure,” 24-year-old McCabe concluded. “I’m really proud of the girls, the way we came out in the second half. The management staff were our eyes from above and we put it right, closing the lines and the gaps between the defence and midfield.

“I’m really happy about the second-half performance, we didn’t concede any more. We’ll take that confidence and that better half into next month.”

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Emma Duffy

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