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Vera Pauw: 'You couldn’t have hoped for anything like this. I'm so incredibly proud'

The Ireland boss oversaw a record-breaking 11-0 win over Georgia tonight.

Thumbs up: Vera Pauw was delighted after Ireland's 11-0 win.
Thumbs up: Vera Pauw was delighted after Ireland's 11-0 win.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“WHAT CAN I say? I don’t know. I’m so incredibly proud,” Vera Pauw smiled afterwards.

In the aftermath of her Republic of Ireland side’s historic 11-0 win over Georgia, that was her main point to get across.

Tuesday night’s victory got the Girls In Green’s World Cup qualification dream back on track after last week’s disappointing draw with lower-ranked Slovakia.

It moved them to second in Group A — a point ahead of play-off spot rivals Finland, and five behind heavyweights Sweden, though with a game in hand — at the midway point.

Reminded it was a record-breaking result as she spoke to the written media post-match, Pauw smiled:

“I heard that after, I didn’t know that. You couldn’t have hoped for anything like this. We were really focused, and we were so focused on getting goals. Our pre-match meeting was all related to that, and getting variety in our play. Being opportunistic at the right times, being composed and having patience, and then suddenly again putting it in.

“So, I think the focus of the whole team was helped by scoring early. We said that to each other, ‘If we cannot score the first goal then it can be difficult.’ You seen that with Slovakia, Finland, and even Sweden only won 4-0. We hoped to have an early score, but we never thought that we could make 11-0 if Sweden only gets 4-0.

“I don’t know what happened to their team, if they made changes or we were that good. They were missing their best player, but even with their best player… it is just an amazing performance, I was so proud.”

Always open to explaining her tactics and methods, the main reason for Pauw’s pride was “the players kept playing the game plan,” with goals from Denise O’Sullivan (three), Katie McCabe (two), Kyra Carusa, Megan Connolly, Lucy Quinn, Amber Barrett, Saoirse Noonan and an own goal ensuring Ireland finished 2021 on a high.

“And the game plan was 1-3-4-3,” she explained, “so a little alternation with Denise [O'Sullivan] and Lucy Quinn in the pockets, and with wingers far forward and constantly threatening, and with a lot of variation in the play through the centre and the side. Balls in the box, winning the second ball and if we cannot shoot immediately, we would go out again, start again, to the other side so we would have crosses and shots from outside the box, but also putting balls in from the different sides.

I am so proud. They have never played a game like this, under this pressure, with a gameplan like we set up and they way they executed it is incredible. No body was starting to fool around, everybody was playing the game-plan to the last second.

“And it shows the way that we work, the system; now Tom [Elmes, assistant coach] is working with players who are not in the line-up so they get coached constantly, and the changes that we made actually made it fresher again and better again, because we needed some more energy. They were not subs to give players a game, but rather subs that would make sure we could score and score again, because it can be very, very important at the end of the campaign.”

That’s the reason why taking captain McCabe off ahead of her FA Cup final with Arsenal this weekend was never an option — “Any goal can bring us closer to qualification,” Pauw said, later adding: “I’m sorry for Georgia but we need to think of our goal difference and that is why we didn’t make a party of it, we kept going.”

Given Group A minnows Georgia conceded nine goals in three games before being hit for 11 in one, this felt like a statement, with Ireland ruthless for the first time in a long time.

“Yes, it is,” the manager agreed. “But let’s also see that they missed a few players, but we’ve done very well.

“We’ve always been ruthless in the sense that we didn’t want the opponent to play. But now, we concentrate and keep going, going, going for more, more and more, I think that’s the first time that I’ve seen it [a ruthless Ireland].

“It’s really important to outplay an opponent like this and not to give them any moment to breathe.”

denise-osullivan-is-lifted-high-in-celebration-by-team-mates-after-scoring-her-third-goal-on-the-night Celebrations after Denise O'Sullivan's hat-trick. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

It took “a lot of guts” to start Ruesha Littlejohn, Pauw explained, given her limited minutes at Aston Villa due to an Achilles injury, though she was impressed with her contribution and took her off for the sake of her club.

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“The strength of this team, and I’ve said it before, is there are players that stand out and catch the eye, but there are so many players that are willing to sacrifice themselves for this team,” she added, with a nod to Kyra Carusa up top.

She hopes that the victory will give the Girls in Green confidence to take their chances going forward, and says they will try this more attack-minded formation in their next friendly window, before the bid to reach a first major tournament restarts in April 2022.

One of many one-sided results of late in the women’s game – England beat Latvia 20-0 tonight – Pauw hardened her stance on the need for change going forward.

“We had a two-tier system and it’s time to bring that in again. I warned Uefa before that there is a lot of opportunities for the top-level teams, the top-level countries and they are drifting away from the rest.

“It’s great that the game develops at that level, but Uefa needs to create opportunities for — I’ve spoken about that before, eh — the second tier and the tier under to gain more experience and more opportunities to train with each other so that we can close the gap. In this way, we cannot close the gap with those.”

BTL 5

About the author:

Emma Duffy  / Reports from Tallaght Stadium

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