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Vera Pauw: 'It gives us such a boost that we can get out of this group'

The Ireland boss says that lessons learned in defeats to higher-ranked sides were key to tonight’s win over Finland.

Ireland boss Vera Pauw before the 2-1 win over Finland this evening.
Ireland boss Vera Pauw before the 2-1 win over Finland this evening.
Image: Roni Rekomaa/INPHO

Updated Oct 26th 2021, 10:31 PM

VERA PAUW SAYS this evening’s 2-1 win over Finland in Helsinki gives her Republic of Ireland women’s national team “such a boost that we can get out of this group” in their quest to qualify for the 2023 World Cup.

Cork duo Denise O’Sullivan and Megan Connolly fired the Girls In Green to a crucial win in Group A, as they took all three points from the second seeds.

The result comes as a monumental one in Ireland’s bid to reach a first-ever major tournament, having opened their campaign with a 1-0 defeat to top seeds Sweden last week.

With the Swedes, the world’s second-ranked team, expected to top the group and coast to automatic qualification, the race for second place — and that coveted play-off — is set to be a hotly contested one. And Finland are unquestionably Ireland’s main rivals.

Speaking after the win, Pauw told RTÉ Sport: “It’s amazing. This was not our most beautiful game, but the most effective game.

“The way that they can have the discipline to play that style when we need it, that is amazing. You can only say that all those defeats that we had with all those higher-ranked teams — without those defeats, we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

(Ireland played a series of friendlies against higher-ranked opposition in preparation for this campaign, enduring a seven-game losing streak before beating Australia in a friendly last month.)

“We said it needs to turn around, the luck needs to come our way,” the Dutch coach added. “We had luck a few times. If you can score immediately after conceding a goal, that’s fantastic because that means that this team is so flexible.”

She went on to discuss how the midfield trio of Jamie Finn, Connolly and O’Sullivan really “worked” tonight, reverting to play 1-5-4-1 down the home straight as Rianna Jarrett was sprung from the bench: “We left Denise on the left, where usually she’s in the middle. We chose for Jamie and Megan [to stay central] because they are real sitters and they can battle there, with more mobility on the wing because we needed that there. I think that was a good decision with Heather [Payne] for pace on the right side.”

Pauw concluded the interview with Tony O’Donoghue by summing up how much of a lift three points on the road against a higher-ranked opponent (Finland are 25th, eight places above Ireland) is.

“It gives us such a boost that we can get out of this group. We can. [There are] many games to go, many difficult games to go, with Slovakia also a very difficult game and even Georgia – they won 3-0 against Georgia and you see the pressure that they put on is. It’s a good boost, and next month, we have the next games.”

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Ireland face Slovakia and Georgia in a massive Tallaght Stadium double-header next month, facing Slovakia on the 25th and Georgia on the 30th.

Tonight’s clash marked Eileen Gleeson’s last as assistant coach, as she takes the reins at Glasgow City. “What a way to go out,” she tweeted afterwards. “My heart will always be Green White and Orange. I will always be your number one fan. COYGIG.”

- Originally published on The42 at 7.32pm, updated to appear on TheJournal.

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