UEFA U19 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL:
Republic of Ireland 0 Netherlands 4
The final chapter for the History Girls wasn’t exactly what the Ireland U19s had in mind as they crashed out of the Uefa European Championships semi-finals last night.
Having topped Group B following wins over Spain, England and Sweden, Dave Connell’s team were unable to stop a very impressive Netherlands side, who saw Vivianne Miedema hit a hat-trick.
Featuring in their first ever European Championships, Ireland missed out on a place in the final but can be proud of their efforts. In energy-sapping conditions, Ireland struggled to set a tempo and were not able to link their passing as freely, with the Dutch regularly forcing them onto the back foot with long balls.
The real difference, however, was Miedema. Recently snapped up by Bayern Munich, the lanky striker is a star in the making and showed her class throughout, with some sublime play.
Yet, the first goal of the night — on five minutes — wasn’t exactly one for the highlights reel, as the No 9 bundled the ball over the line after Ireland failed to clear the danger.
In two of their previous three games in this tournament, Ireland came from behind to record wins, but this game quickly slipped out of reach, with Miedema proving a constant menace.
On 34 minutes, Miedema skipped away from her marker to slide a pass into Jeslynn Kuijpers, who fired in via the inside of the post. Again, it wasn’t a great goal but luck was on their side.
To their credit, Connell’s players kept working hard and went close through chances from Lauren Dwyer and Clare Shine. Yet, they missed that cutting edge that worked so well in previous games.
Fatigue certainly looked to be a factor, although the Dutch did impress. Three minutes into the second half they were 3-0 up when Miedema converted from close range.
Then on 55 minutes, the 18-year-old ensured she got the match ball to take home when controlling a high pass before drilling a low shot past goalkeeper Brooke Dunne to make it 4-0.
The introductions of Katie McCabe and Roma McLaughlin added more zip to Ireland’s play, but a stubborn Dutch defence didn’t show any cracks and repelled all attacks.
Still, Ireland continued to push forward, as their tremendous character shone through. Slick passing in midfield saw them break into dangerous areas but they couldn’t unload enough shots.
McCabe showed determination in the final 10 minutes as she twice found enough room to take aim, but both efforts missed the target and didn’t test goalkeeper Jennifer Vreugdenhil.
While the Netherlands will go into Sunday’s final against Spain — who overcame the hosts Norway 2-0 — the achievements of this Ireland team should not be overlooked as they return home today.
They were the first team to qualify for this tournament, three straight wins, a semi-final spot, 12 players still eligible for the next campaign, and a foundation for women’s football to prosper around the country.
Connell, and his backroom team, have done superb work with this squad and many of them will go on to better things. But, this group will always be remembered as the History Girls.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Dunne; Keenan, O’Connell, McCarthy, Wright; Mustaki (Nolan 60); Dwyer (Mclaughlin 66), Connolly; Rowe, Shine, O’Connor (McCabe 50).
Yellow Card: Keenan 20.
NETHERLANDS: Vreugdenhil; Akkerman, Janssen, Kerdijk, Kuikstra (Peels 75); Mourmans (Bruinenberg 77), Roord, Kaagman; Kuijpers, Miedema (Beerensteyn 84), Strik.
Yellow Cards: Mourmans 36, Kaagman 53, Kuikstra 67.
Referee: Marija Kurtes (Germany).
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