# Breakdown
Tactics Board: Ruthless Ireland show extra attacking intent and blow minnows Georgia away
Shane Keegan looks at the senior women’s team’s record-breaking performance at Tallaght Stadium.


BEFORE ANALYSING THIS Women’s World Cup qualifier, it’s worth applying some context to the result.

Georgia are not a good side. They are ranked 123 in the Fifa rankings and were always going to finish bottom of a group that is, aside from them, very competitive.

That said, the ruthless nature of this performance has to be given substantial credit. For all of Georgia’s flaws, they had only conceded a combined total of 9 goals in their three qualifying matches, so to score 11 in one game is a considerable achievement.

So how did Ireland do it?

Change of shape as Ireland rack up record score

katie-mccabe-is-congratulated-by-team-mates-after-scoring-her-second-goal Morgan Treacy / INPHO The Ireland players celebrating a goal. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Vera Pauw made four changes in personnel to her starting eleven with Diane Caldwell, Ruesha Littlejohn, Jessica Ziu and Kyra Carusa all coming into the side.

She also changed the shape but without departing from her favoured approach of three centre-halves. They remained, as did the wing-backs, but the middle of the field now saw a ‘box four’ with one central striker in front of them.

The formation change is likely to have ben prompted by Ireland’s lack of control of possession in last week’s disappointing draw at home to Slovakia.

By positioning Lucy Quinn as a second ten in this game, rather than playing her as an out-and-out forward as she had done previously, it gave the team an extra body in the creative phase of the build-up.

Early in the game, and already one-nil up, we see a great example of Ireland’s new shape.

As Denise O’Sullivan gets on the ball, we can clearly see the shape of the central midfield four. More importantly though, take a look at the positions of the wing-backs.

McCabe and Ziu are almost in line with centre forward Carusa and are both looking for the ball to go to them so that they can attack.

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O’Sullvan decides to go down Ziu’s side and after beating the full-back she pulls it back to Lucy Quinn. McCabe, as we can see is already in the box on the opposite side.

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Quinn opts to try and bend her delivery around to McCabe but slightly overhits it, when slipping the ball in for the onrushing O’Sullivan would probably have presented her with the easiest of chances.

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The first goal worth a proper look was Ireland’s third. When a team are set up in a low block, as Georgia were here, you need somebody to try and do something a little unorthodox so as to disrupt them.

When Caldwell initially receives the ball below, we can see McCabe in a traditional wing-back’s position.

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But when Caldwell gets back on the ball a few passes later, we see a very different picture, with McCabe having drifted into an inside left spot.

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This proves to the catalyst for a brilliant piece of combination play, with McCabe coming short to pull her player out of the position before darting in behind to latch onto O’Sullivan’s perfect pass into the vacated space.

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McCabe’s low drive across the box is met by Lucy Quinn on the far side, who drills it come. In addition to McCabe and Quinn, Ireland had another three players all in the area, further highlighting their commitment to attack.

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McCabe’s deliveries are of a world class standard

This cross from McCabe was just one of the five from her that ended up with the ball in the back of the net.

Her delivery in the third minute of the game was threatening enough to force left-back Maiko Bebia to turn the ball into her own net. With Carusa lurking just behind her, a goal was the likely outcome either way.

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In the second half, and knowing her team-mate O’Sullivan was on two goals, she sent a sumptuously deft cross to the back post for her to wrap up her hat-trick.

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On top of those, you can throw in two corner-kicks that were of such a high standard that it was almost inevitable that the ball would end up in the back of the net on both occasions.

Is there a better crosser of the ball in football at the minute?

She also repeated her earlier trick of starting wide before reappearing inside for Ireland’s eighth goal. Here she appears wide on the right, having just taken a corner on that side, and receives a pass from Ziu.

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But following a couple of excellent passes from Niamh Fahey, she picks up a ball from substitute Roma McLaughlin in that inside channel.

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Her swivel and finish yet again reminded us of what she can do from higher up the field.

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Added attacking intent pays dividends

Ireland’s fourth and fifth goals, both converted by O’Sullivan, showed an attacking intent that had often been missing in recent games.

The new shape allowed Littlejohn and Megan Connolly to take turns in driving forward knowing that the other would cover for them.

Below, Littlejohn takes advantage of this freedom to set up O’Sullivan’s first.

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In the build up to O’Sullivan’s second, we can see how involved the outside centre backs are. Left-sided centre-back Caldwell initially steps forward and tries to cross to Quinn.

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When that ball comes back out it’s right-sided centre-back Fahey who is there to play a one-two on the edge of the box before then teeing up O’Sullivan to finish brilliantly.

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Pauw’s side now face a five-month wait before the resumption of their qualifying campaign. It will be interesting to see what impact this performance has on her plans for the side going forward.

It’s hard not to feel that she didn’t fully thrust the technical quality of her players last week against Slovakia.

Will she now believe that they need be let off the leash a bit more or will she revert back to a more pragmatic approach?

As ever, the decision around how best to get the most from McCabe will be the crucial call. In theory, she was playing the same role here as she had in previous games, left wing-back.

But apart from the return game against Georgia, she unlikely to experience the same attacking freedom again from that position in the games to come.

The idea of herself and O’Sullivan as the two tens in this new shape is exhilarating but is anybody else capable of filling that left wing-back berth? Aine O’Gorman across to the left and Jamie Finn or Ziu right maybe?

It’s certainly going to be a fascinating second half to the campaign for this Irish side.

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