Ireland to face Northern Ireland in Women’s World Cup qualifiers

The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team have been drawn in the same World Cup qualifying group as Northern Ireland, writes Stephen Barry.

The team will also face Norway, Holland and Slovakia in their attempt to qualify for France 2019.

Colin Bell’s side, ranked 32nd in the world, were in pot C of the draw, but received tough draws from pots A and B in Norway (11th in the world rankings) and Holland (12th). Those two teams will also play each other at Euro 2017 this summer.

Ireland defeated Slovakia (41st) earlier this month in a friendly. The team had threatened to boycott the fixture in protest at the conditions given to them by the FAI. The situation was resolved after late-night mediations talks concluded four days before the game.

Northern Ireland are ranked 55th in the world.

Head coach Bell was happy there aren’t too many long-haul trips: “Obviously, the draw is something you can't influence but looking at it, it's good for us logistically.

“There will be a bit of travelling with Slovakia but with the other nations, they're all pretty close which is great.

“I know Norway well having worked over there before and they've plenty of top players throughout the squad. Ada Hegerberg is one of the best strikers in the world and they've got plenty of quality on the wings as well.

“Netherlands have really come on in the last year or so and have a number of players who will be able to create problems for any team in the world so we're under no illusions that it will be tough.

“It will be a great occasion to play Northern Ireland and it will create a great atmosphere when we play them at home and away so I'm really looking forward to it. We've recently played Slovakia and they had a few players missing so they'll also present us with a tough task.”

The top team in Group 3 will qualify automatically and finishing second is no guarantee of a play-off, with only the four runners-up with the best records across the seven groups advancing to that stage.

Only one team progresses from the play-offs into the World Cup after semi-finals and a final are held.

The qualifiers will begin on September 11 this year, and will run until September 4, 2018.

The qualifying draw in full:

Group 1

England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan

Group 2

Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania

Group 3

Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland

Group 4

Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia

Group 5

Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands

Group 6

Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova

Group 7

Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel

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