Manager Colin Bell says that every game will be “like a cup final” for the senior Irish women’s team as they bid to make it to their first ever major tournament, the 2021 European Championship finals in England.
The Irish will certainly be playing the role of cup ‘minnows’ when they take on mighty Germany, after yesterday’s draw for the qualifiers pitted the girls in green against the side currently ranked number two in the world behind the USA. Ukraine, Greece and Montenegro make up the rest of Ireland’s opposition in Group I.
The Irish will actually end their campaign with what, if they still have everything to play for, would be a mouth-watering home game against the powerhouse Germans – who have won the Euros eight times and the World Cup twice — in September of 2020.
Ireland kick off their qualification campaign at home to Montenegro on Tuesday, September 3 of this year before welcoming Ukraine on Tuesday, October 8, followed by a trip to Greece on Tuesday, November 12.
In 2020, it will be the turn of the Greeks to travel to Ireland on Friday, March 6 before the Irish head to Montenegro on Wednesday, March 11. Ireland then travel to Germany on Saturday, April 11 followed by a trip to Ukraine on Friday, June 5 and, finally, there’s that concluding group game at home to the Germans on Tuesday, September 22.
“It’s great to finally know who we will be up against as that is what we’ve been waiting for,” said Head Coach Bell after yesterday’s draw in Nyon.
“I know we can compete against every team in the group so we’ll be looking forward to it. Germany are obviously one of the top seeds in the world. Ukraine will be a tough team to break down and they’ve really developed in recent years with one or two outstanding players.
“They’re second seeds so we’ll respect them like we will all of our opponents. The work towards facing the opposition starts now. We’ll be approaching every single game like it is a cup final for us and that is the mentality we will need to get to the finals.
“We’re still a young side so we need to keep working hard in the next international matches and be as prepared as we can be in September.”
Elsewhere in the qualifying rounds, fourth seeds Northern Ireland will play in Group C against Norway, Wales, Belarus and the Faroe Islands. Top seeds Scotland are in Group E, with Finland, Portugal, Albania and Cyprus, the latter making their senior competitive debut.
Before turning their attention to trying to retain their trophy, reigning European champions Netherlands, like Scotland, will be firmly focused on this summer’s World Cup in France where, along with the host nation, the other European representatives are Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and, already guaranteed their place in the Euro finals as hosts, England.
The qualifying format for Euro 2021 sees the group winners and the three runners-up with the best record against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their sections automatically join England in the finals. The other six runners-up will play off, over two legs, for the remaining three berths in the 16-team finals to be held the following summer.
After regulation qualifying is completed in September 2020, the play-offs will take place in October of that year.
2019 September 3: Montenegro (H), October 8: Ukraine (H), November 12: Greece (A). 2020 March 6: Greece (H), March 11: Montenegro (A), April 11: Germany (A), June 5: Ukraine (A), Sep 22: Germany (H).