After battling past Scotland to reach the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, there was plenty of excitement about what the Republic of Ireland might achieve Down Under.
Two defeats and a draw saw Ireland finish bottom of Group A but much will have been learnt by head coach Vera Pauw and her side over the three games in Australia.
Ireland Proved A Tough Nut To Crack
Playing the hosts Australia in the opening game at Stadium Australia in Sydney was always going to be a daunting task for Ireland but the Girls in Green came away from the game with plenty of plaudits. Australia went on to finish top of Group A and are 7/1 in the football odds to win the tournament on their own patch. The Matildas, who are 5/1 in the Women’s World Cup odds to finish as runners-up, were made to work hard for their 1-0 win over Ireland. In the end, Steph Catley’s second-half penalty was the difference between the sides.
Ireland learnt the hard way that discipline at these major tournaments is key and Marissa Sheva’s push on Hayley Raso was punished with Catley’s well-taken penalty. Ireland were fearless against the Aussies going forward and came close on a few occasions to grabbing an equaliser. Megan Connolly, Katie McCabe and Louise Quinn all had chances and Ireland learnt again that taking opportunities is key. It was a game that might have gone another way but was one that showed Ireland would be no pushovers at this major tournament.
An Early Exit But Experience Key For Development
Ireland made the perfect start to their second game at Perth Rectangular Stadium against Canada, with McCabe finding the back of the net after just four minutes. Again the Irish might have been wondering what might have been as they just failed to keep Canada out before the break, with Megan Connolly scoring an own goal. That shifted the momentum in the game and Canada came out and got what proved to be the winner with Manchester United’s Adriana Leon scoring in the 53rd minute.
Two battling defeats in Australia and Ireland knew there was no hope of reaching the knockout stages, with only pride to play for in their final game against Nigeria at Lang Park in Brisbane. It was to prove to be a low-key affair and the match ended in a goalless stalemate with little in attack from either side during the contest. The game ended on a sour note with the suggestion McCabe had called on coach Pauw to make substitutions during the clash with Nigeria. While the future of Pauw is uncertain, Ireland can look back on their efforts in Australia with pride and even wonder what might have been if a few key moments had gone their way.
Fine margins are the very nature of what elite sport in major tournaments is about and Ireland’s women will be hoping to be back at a World Cup at the next opportunity in 2027.