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Favourable result for Republic of Ireland, but the North's World Cup hopes suffer blow

Finland were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovakia last night, ahead of the Girls In Green’s trip to Gothenburg.

Vera Pauw's Republic of Ireland side travel to Gothenburg today ahead of Tuesday's clash with Sweden.
Vera Pauw's Republic of Ireland side travel to Gothenburg today ahead of Tuesday's clash with Sweden.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes have been dealt a significant boost after Finland were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovakia last night.

Vera Pauw’s side are in direct competition with both sides for second place in Group A — the coveted play-off spot, with Tuesday’s opponents Sweden, the runaway leaders, within touching distance of automatic qualification — and Finland dropping points means Ireland’s destiny is within their grasp.

The Girls In Green moved into ascendancy after a monumental 2-1 win over the second seeds in Helsinki last October, but a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in Tallaght Stadium was a favourable result for the Finns as they played catch up.

Three points in Trnava last night would have really intensified the pressure on Ireland, but Martina Surnovska’s 16th-minute equaliser stopped Finland in their tracks after Tuija Hyyrynen had fired them into an early lead.

The draw moves Finland level with Ireland on seven points, though Pauw’s side currently have a game in hand as they prepare to face the all-conquering Swedes in Gothenburg on Tuesday [KO 5.30pm Irish time, live on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player worldwide].

Screenshot 2022-04-09 11.01.07 Source: Uefa.

A point at Gamla Ullevi would seal direct qualification for the hosts, while anything but a defeat is effectively a bonus for Ireland. The Swedes were 1-0 winners in Tallaght Stadium last time out, though are in a different place now as they prepare for this summer’s European Championships in England, having put 15 goals past hapless Georgia on Thursday.

A trip to Tbilisi to face the group’s minnows is next up thereafter for Ireland in June, before September’s decisive double-header against Finland (home) and Slovakia (away). The Finns face Georgia on Tuesday, before also locking horns with Sweden once again in September.

Elsewhere last night, Northern Ireland suffered a severe blow to their qualifying hopes as they fell to a 3-1 defeat to Austria in Group D.

Three goals early in the second half sunk the visitors at Wiener Neustadt, and Kenny Shiels side now face the daunting visit of high-flying England to Windsor Park next week.

Ellen White scored her 50th England goal and Beth Mead hit four as the Lionesses roared a step closer to the World Cup with a 10-0 victory over North Macedonia.

Manchester City forward White moved to within three goals of equalling Wayne Rooney’s all-time England record in a predictably one-sided qualifier in Skopje.

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Mead racked up her third hat-trick of the qualifying campaign, while Ella Toone also helped herself to three goals and Georgia Stanway scored twice.

England began their qualifying campaign with an 8-0 win over the same opposition at St Mary’s in September in Sarina Wiegman’s first game in charge.

They have now scored 63 times in just seven qualifying matches – while conceding none – and if Austria drop points, they could officially book their ticket to next year’s tournament against Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

- Additional reporting by Emma Duffy and Press Association

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