Vera Pauw: Georgia a must-win game for World Cup qualification

Ireland face Georgia on Tuesday evening in a game they can't afford to slip up in on the road to the 2023 World Cup
Vera Pauw: Georgia a must-win game for World Cup qualification

Ireland manager Vera Pauw: 'We have prepared well and we are ready for this game, but we know that we must take the three points.' Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Still wounded by their last clash with a nation from the Caucasus region, Ireland cannot afford to mess up against another on Tuesday night.

Georgia, ranked 123 of 168 nations in the world, are nowhere near the calibre of Ukraine who 13 months ago ended what’s considered Ireland’s best-ever chance of reaching a major tournament.

Three points at Tallaght for Vera Pauw’s side won’t determine the outcome of this tilt to reach the 2023 World Cup but any slippage would almost certainly end their ambitions of the campaign of reaching a play-off by the midway point.

At least Pauw has called it straight. Stephen Kenny may have been loath to brand qualifiers against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan as matches that had to be won but the Dutch native was categorical about the target.

“We are clear about it,” she clarified. “This is a must-win game for us if we are to qualify for the World Cup.

“We have prepared well and we are ready for this game, but we know that we must take the three points.

“I’m very confident we can get composure and creativity tomorrow. The gameplan works well. It was about putting the dots on the ‘I’s’ in the build-up but we respect Georgia.

“It’s not that they cannot play. They are the weaker side but they have some strengths in their squad.

“They are very fast up front, so we need to really take care of the space behind us and we have to block every pass forward immediately.” 

That was an area Slovakia exploited in Thursday’s 1-1 draw. Up against a lower-ranked seed in front of 5,000 fans, Ireland toiled when expectation demanded they build on last month’s win over Finland.

It took the concession of a goal early in the second half, one that exposed faultlines in their tactics of deploying captain Katie McCabe at left wing-back, for Ireland to awaken.

The Arsenal player led by example, charging into the box to drill home her 11th international goal, but Ireland failed to use the equaliser as a springboard for a late winner.

How costly those two dropped points are to their campaign won’t be known until the second half of the campaign gets underway from next April but Finland were delighted to get a reprieve.

Lucy Quinn during  Ireland training at Tallaght Stadium on Monday. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Lucy Quinn during  Ireland training at Tallaght Stadium on Monday. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

They started the campaign as favourites to provide the main challenge to their Nordic neighbours, only for Ireland’s victory in Helsinki to upset the projection.

Pauw has admitted that the Swedes — who beat Finland 2-1 before a 14,000 sold-out crowd in Gothenburg last Thursday — will take the one automatic qualifying spot from the pool for the showpiece in Australia and New Zealand.

“We have to be realistic,” stressed Pauw about the Swedes, who are next up for Ireland, away from home, on April 12 next year.

“To kick off a Sweden team ranked second in the world, not in a one-off game where that can happen but throughout a full campaign, is not realistic.

“It would be the same to think you could win against Germany in our last campaign and stop them winning the group.

“That doesn’t mean we are not going to do everything to win in Sweden of course but against Georgia we have to get the three points to be in the race for that second place.” 

Pauw confirmed that Courtney Brosnan will retain her place in goal, despite competition from newly declared Brighton and Hove Albion stopper Megan Walsh, while fellow American Kyra Carusa will deputise in attack for Heather Payne, forced to return to Florida University for college exams.

Georgia, who only have one player in their squad based outside of the country, will be missing captain Teona Todadze.

The FAI are expecting a crowd of around 4,000.

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