Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw has criticised Uefa's Covid testing system and claimed it is not providing a level playing field for her side as they face into tomorrow's win-or-bust Women's Euro 2022 qualifier against Germany in Tallaght.
The visitors have already received the results of their last batch of tests but Pauw and her squad are still in the dark as to theirs. The results will not be forthcoming until this afternoon, 24 hours or so before kick-off, even though the samples were taken yesterday morning.
“I'm usually not taking out things to the press but now I would like to say something,” Pauw explained. “We did our last testing yesterday morning. If I have understood well, the samples went first to Northern Ireland, to Belfast, then to Birmingham on a flight, then by car to London.
“It should have arrived last night at nine o'clock and this morning we got a message that we only get results in the afternoon. This is unacceptable. It's Uefa guidelines, Uefa has cert on that, I do understand that but it's not as if Ireland is not having labs and not having very highly qualified labs.
“I do understand that Uefa needs to structure it but why does Germany already have their results and why do we need to wait until after our last training session? I think that this is something that Uefa really have to sort out. I usually never use the press for this but I find this unacceptable.”
The Irish players and staff underwent Covid testing before they left their clubs for camp, have done so again since then, and have followed the Covid protocols religiously this last week but, while a positive test now in unlikely, the uncertainty is clearly an unwelcome distraction.
“Yes, of course. You need to know that earlier. In Germany, we tested earlier when we were there (in camp) for the Ukraine game. We tested at one point and then four hours later we had all our results and we knew who could fly and who could not fly. And that is logical.
“And every country, every club that's playing internationally, they use this lab (company). And that lab, there's not a branch in Ireland. So that is the reason it's going there but I think that there should be a solution for this because this is unfair competition.”
Ireland need to match Ukraine's result in tomorrow's closing Group I fixtures in order to finish as runners-up keep their hopes of a place at Euro 2022 alive. Problem is that Ukraine are expected to cruise past Montenegro in Kyiv while Ireland face a German team rated the world's best.
Pauw will be keeping herself appraised of events in the Ukrainian capital.
“The question is, what is the bigger chance? Of Ukraine losing points there or that we gain points from Germany? That is the question. Of course, the ball is round, that’s a cliché. We start at zero-zero. That's another cliché. We do best to play our best game ever and we’ll see where we end.”
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's side have won all seven of their group games to date, scoring 43 times and conceding none. Ireland gave them their toughest task when going down 3-0 in Essen in September but they now need to find the net at least once in Tallaght.
Pauw stresses that Ireland have players “who can do something special” but stopping the Germans has to be the first priority and it is with that in mind that the home side is looking to squeeze the dimensions of the pitch at Tallaght Stadium.
A wide surface that normally measures 68m in width, Ireland are seeking permission from Uefa to reduce that by three metres. That is not the minimum but a 'normal' measurement according to Pauw who has kept the Germans fully briefed as to their intentions.
“It's not like a trick,” she said.
The Irish players were consulted on the idea and gave it their full backing. Pauw will be without Manchester City's Megan Campbell who suffered an injury in training late last week while West Ham United's Leanne Kiernan has emerged as another loss due to a hamstring problem.
The magnitude of the task is enormous. Germany have won just one qualifier in the last decade and that was a side experiencing a rare dip in fortunes under a management team no longer in place. Eight-time European champions, they are strong favourites to make that nine and Pauw can only offer a hollow laugh when asked if they are in any way vulnerable.
“I wish. No, no they’re not vulnerable but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a game plan. We will do everything we can to get a result but if we don’t I hope we show Ireland we have done everything we can within our capacity to make the country crowd and make our fans proud.”