As their toughest test inches closer, Ireland women’s manager Colin Bell has urged his players to embrace the challenge of facing European champions Netherlands in their backyard before a capacity crowd.
Bell, a Uefa Champions League coach from his spell at Frankfurt, concedes that customary wisdom points to only one outcome at the Goffert Stadium Nijmegen next Tuesday. While Ireland, like the Dutch, have claimed full points from their opening two World Cup qualifiers, the gulf in reputation remains vast.
“We have to find a formula to try stop this Dutch machine,” asserted Bell.
“They didn’t just win the Euros in the summer, they dominated the tournament.
“In the semi-final, they beat an England team 3-0 that were said to be fitter than ever before.
“We’ll have to be really at our best to get a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, as football experts would say we hardly had a chance. That’s fine, but we don’t believe that. Now the players have to prove that they don’t believe it.”
Bell and his squad fly to Amsterdam today without regulars Stephanie Roche, Aine O’Gorman, and Megan Campbell but with a squad fully prepared from an extended training camp in Dublin. Players reported for duty on Monday, a full days eight ahead of the game in an unprecedented move by the Leicester-born boss.
“My coaching philosophy has always been about trying to stay one step ahead,” reasoned Bell, whose side have kept seven clean sheets in his nine games at the helm.
“We’ve got through a lot of work this week and there’s still a few things to be tweaked. The main aim is to remain compact and well-organised, with everybody knowing their role and responsibilities.
“We’ve also looked at reacting to situations like conceding early. It’s not something I want to happen but we have to make sure not to crumble.”
Ireland’s chances of nicking a goal have been hit by the loss of Campbell.
The left-back ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Manchester City and in last week’s Champions League victory over LSK Kvinner, robbing the Girls in Green of their main attacking outlet. Of the four goals scored so far in the campaign, one came from Campbell’s left foot and two were created by her trademark long throw-ins. Megan shouldn’t be defined by her special throw-in because her absence leaves a lot of aspects missing for us,” Bell said of the Drogheda native.
“We’re working on something else against the Dutch. I can’t say anything about it because it can only work once.”
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