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Vera Pauw: 'If there's one team in the world that deserves the next step, it's this team'

Ireland boss and captain Katie McCabe hail monumental 1-1 draw in Sweden – and suggest Girls In Green could have even won.

Ireland players celebrate after Katie McCabe's opener.
Ireland players celebrate after Katie McCabe's opener.
Image: Tommy Holl/INPHO

AND SO, VERA Pauw’s Tigers come out of the Lions’ den with one of the biggest results in the history of Irish women’s football.

The Republic of Ireland leave Sweden tonight with one incredibly valuable point, and the dream of reaching a first-ever major tournament in the 2023 World Cup more alive than ever.

Katie McCabe’s first-half goal and a top-class performance from goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan were key, as Kosovare Asllani spared the blushes of the European and world heavyweights with a 79th-minute equaliser.

The result saw the star-studded hosts secure automatic qualification for the finals in Australia and New Zealand, but their party at the Gamla Ullevi Stadium was certainly dampened as they dropped qualification points on home soil for the first time since 2010.

For the Girls In Green, meanwhile, this was a monumental night after a remarkable defensive display.

Pauw declared herself “the proudest one in the room” in the post-match press conference, beaming:

“I’ve said before and I have joked a bit about the tigers, but they are…. you’ve seen tonight again, nobody wins easy from us and that starts with the absolute passion of these players, to be able to give up everything for their country.

“That’s contagious, and it’s contagious to the nation I hope, contagious to the staff, and I hope that we can add what they need so that they can go further and further and further. Because this team deserves it. If there’s one team in the world that deserves the next step, it’s this team.”

“It’s not only the point,” the Dutch coach continued, in the wake of her 20th game at the helm.

“This programme needs the support and we need to feel we’re on the right path and that we are growing. We absolutely know where we stand. We are very realistic and we know that this is what we can do. The way it has been executed, the concentration and determination and discipline is absolutely phenomenal. A few Swedish players would help us go forward, but these Tigers have really made us proud.

“We’ve had luck, we know they were on us constantly and we knew this was the only chance to get a result. With more luck, we could have won the game.

“But I’m so happy because that point could bring us to the play-offs in the end.”

Captain McCabe shared the sentiment that they could, perhaps, be departing Gothenburg with an unprecedented victory.

“10 more minutes and we could have got the three points,” the Arsenal star began.

“Unfortunately I gave the ball away for the goal. Sweden were relentless. They hit the bar. We had some world-class saves from our ‘keeper. They deserved the draw because they were at us for 90 minutes-plus. Our target was not to lose the game and to get a point away from home against the second-best team in the world, I’ll take that.

“We’re trying to close that gap, it is difficult because they have world-class players in every position. But we’re getting there. We’re working hard behind the scenes. This is an important result for us today.”

“We love to defend,” she added. “We love the hard work. Kind of born with it, as an Irish player, you have to live to do the hard yards. That aggressive nature, but clean; composure when we needed it. And I thought we executed what we needed to do.”

katie-mccabe-with-filippa-angeldal McCabe on the ball. Source: Tommy Holl/INPHO

Contextualising the significance of the result on this journey, where they find themselves in a favourable position for the play-off spot in Group A, the Dubliner noted:

“Obviously we were disappointed to concede the own goal [to Georgia] back in October. Then we went into the Georgia game and hit the ground running, we just want to keep building momentum now.

“Yes, we’ll take the point today, but now the full focus will be on Georgia [in June] and getting the three points out there. It’s going to be a difficult game, it’s not easy. We can look at the scorelines but Georgia are going to put up a real big fight against us and make it really difficult.

“We’ve got three massive games now, but we’ll be taking it game by game.

“It’s just another step in the direction we want to go, in terms of World Cup qualification.”

Asked about the possibility of Ireland following Sweden to the finals, manager Peter Gerhardsson said: “It’s up to them now. Look at Serbia beating Germany today, many countries are taking steps, getting better coaches and tactical and physical preparation.

“Ireland have four extremely good players and with them and the others doing a good job, tonight is the result. Whether they have the depth is another issue. It took us time to get to that level.

“But for now they deserve to make the World Cup. And they will have one year to prepare.”

He also assured that their final group game against the Girls In Green’s direct rivals, Finland, is like “Ireland versus England, we want to win it.”

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About the author:

Emma Duffy  / reports from the Gamla Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg.

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