Ireland defender Keeva Keenan admits it will take something spectacular for their Women's European Championship qualification dream to be salvaged.
Last month’s 1-0 defeat in Ukraine leaves Vera Pauw’s side with the seismic challenge of beating Germany at Tallaght next Tuesday to capture a play-off for the 2022 finals.
To put that task in context, the German women’s team have been far more successful than their male equivalents since first reaching a major tournament in 1989, winning eight European Championship titles, two World Cups, and an Olympic gold.
Seasoned Dutch coach Pauw brands the current batch as the best team in Europe, up there on a par with World champions USA.
Ireland have never overcome a top seed in their competitive history, let alone the most powerful they’ve ever faced.
“Germany are one of the best teams in the world, so we know we’ll have to pull off something spectacular next Tuesday to get a play-off,” said Celtic full-back Keenan today, speaking at the start of the squad’s build-up to the final qualifier.
“We could have made it a lot easier for ourselves by getting a result in Kiev. It was a sick feeling after the game because we felt it was game over for us.
“We’ve nothing to lose at this stage and we’ll go for it. Vera will get us ready tactically and we’ll give it our all.
“We’re not going to get overwhelmed by what could potentially happen.”
The 23-year-old was brought back from the international wilderness upon Pauw’s arrival, featuring in her first qualifiers at home to Ukraine and away to Greece towards the end of 2019.
Injuries kept her out of the two wins over Greece and Montenegro just before lockdown but a return to action in Scotland propels her into the frame to figure next week.
The decision of Celtic, along with Old Firm rivals Rangers, to upgrade their set-up to fully professional has worked in Keenan’s favour.
“It helps that a few clubs have gone professional,” she notes. “Glasgow City have won the league for 13 years in a row but at least there’s a chance of a different winner now. The games are really competitive, with no big results.”
One such close contest came against Rangers yesterday week when Celtic drew first blood in the battle of the big spenders.
“It wouldn’t have as much background as the men’s game but still has the Old Firm vibe to the game,” the Dubliner explained about her experience from the 1-0 win.
“There’s rivalry to it as a big game for the clubs.”
Pauw is still awaiting news on some players before naming her final squad.