Upcoming 'must-not-lose' qualifiers present a different challenge for Vera Pauw and Ireland

Vera Pauw claims Ireland’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against lower seeds will be tougher than last month’s meetings with the group’s two most esteemed nations.
Upcoming 'must-not-lose' qualifiers present a different challenge for Vera Pauw and Ireland

BUMPY ROAD AHEAD: Ireland manager Vera Pauw says playing the lower seeds presents a new challenge for her side. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Vera Pauw claims Ireland’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against lower seeds will be tougher than last month’s meetings with the group’s two most esteemed nations.

Third seeds Ireland narrowly lost their campaign opener to the world’s second highest ranked team, Sweden, by an own-goal in Tallaght but won 2-1 in Helsinki against second seeds Finland.

Only the nation that finishes first, likely Sweden, will progress directly to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand but Ireland have taken an early initiative in the battle for the runners-up spot that clinches a playoff.

Pauw’s side hosts Slovakia next Thursday before Georgia at the same Tallaght Stadium venue on Tuesday week (both 7pm).

Slovakia, fourth seeds in the group, held Sweden and Finland to one-goal wins in their opening pair of qualifiers before beating Georgia 2-0 last month.

“These games are must-not-lose,” is how the Dutchwoman described the double-header when naming her 25-player squad.

“This is probably a more difficult international week than the previous one.

“If we don’t manage to put the intensity on the pitch that we did against Sweden and Finland, we will not get the points.

“But, if we get good results by winning both games, then we are on track for qualification.” Such is the competition in the attacking positions that Rianna Jarrett hasn’t made the cut.

The Wexford native was Pauw’s main striker in her first campaign, scoring in the 3-2 win over Ukraine in November 2019 that gave Ireland a chance to reach the Euros that they blew in the return fixture. In-form Liverpool striker Leanne Kiernan has been preferred, with Kyra Carusa, currently playing in the Uefa Champions League group stages for HB Koge returns from injury. Shelbourne striker Saoirse Noonan keeps her place.

“There are other better players at the moment; simple as that,” explained Pauw about the London City Lionesses forward.

“I had a conversation with all the players on the standby list and she is disappointed of course.

“Rianna is struggling to get back to her old level. She understands from seeing what other players are doing at a higher level. That is the consequence of elite sport.”

IRELAND squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading).

Defenders: Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (North Carolina Courage), Claire Walsh (Glasgow City), Savannah McCarthy (Galway WFC), Éabha O'Mahony (Boston College), Áine O'Gorman (Peamount United).

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Niamh Farrelly (Glasgow City), Ciara Grant (Shelbourne), Aoibheann Clancy (Wexford Youths), Roma McLaughlin (Central Connecticut State University).

Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Kyra Carusa (HB Koge), Leanne Kiernan (Liverpool), Saoirse Noonan (Shelbourne), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City).


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