- Lifestyle & Sports
- 01 Aug 23
She also discusses the atmosphere on the ground, her favourites to go all the way and the moments making this tournament one to remember.
Despite not making it past the group stages at this year’s World Cup, the Irish team have done themselves and their supporters immensely proud. That's my assessment – and I'm sticking to it!
Going into the tournament Ireland were not dealt an easy hand after being drawn in the 'group of death'.
Having to play one of the opening games against the hosts was a lot of pressure – all the more so considering they were debutants. As it turned out, all the games were close, which left a everyone feeling little bit disappointed in the end. They had shown enough to believe it would have been feasible to do very well.
Make no mistake, the team were superb. The losses they suffered were mainly because of unfortunate mistakes and momentary lapses of concentration. The Canada game in particular – which they lost 2-1 – really could have gone either way. Many were surprised by how few goals the Irish team conceded. I wasn't. They were well organised and had the right attitude. Those qualities go a long way even at this level.
In the last match, there appeared to be some dissent directed towards Vera Pauw by captain Katie McCabe. To me, it seemed like a heat of the moment thing. Katie's role is to be the coach's voice on the pitch. sShe has to relay the messages – but that is often a two-way thing. She was calling for fresh legs – and they might have needed a change. But it frequently looks different from the sideline. A coach tends to have a broader view than any individual player.
Either way, Katie’s been the captain for so long, she has every right to say it in the moment. It's also the country's first World Cup. You want to make a statement. You want to win. And want to give everyone a chance to play in it.
Looking at it from a player's point of view, a few coaches have made interesting decisions regarding subs – who they brought in and the timing of the changes. The substitutions Ireland made against Canada can't be said to have worked. Ireland were the better side in the first half. But Canada took over after the break. The impact of the goal conceded by Ireland at the end of the first half might have played a part. But either way, we lost the initiative – and it cost us dearly.
There were also some rumours of discontent before the opening match against Australia, regarding the personal lives of McCabe and teammate Reusha Littlejohn. For sure, that kind of thing can affect a team’s performance – but from what I saw it didn’t affect Ireland. On the contrary, they were arguably the two best Irish players in all three games. They both worked like Trojans. Indisputably, both can hold their heads high.
A huge well done to the Ireland WNT in their draw with Nigeria.
— FAI Women (@FAIWomen) July 31, 2023
Meanwhile, Vera Pauw's long term tenure as head coach remains a doubt. I don’t think she’ll be kept for the next Euros. And I'm not sure we should be too concerned about that.
Looking at the Irish team they’re all fantastic players. Between them, they've played a lot of minutes for top teams around the world. Their success has not necessarily come from the coach and tactics.
Pauw's decision to bring just four attackers was strange. Maybe she thinks the talent isn't there. But it makes me wonder whether – with a more balanced manager – we could have gone beyond the group stage.
The bottom line is that she went into the finals with a very defensive mind-set. She wanted to park the bus and this was unfair on the players. My considered view is that we could have gotten further with a more balanced and aggressive game. In fairness, Ireland have come a long way under Vera Pauw – but I could see them going to a whole new level with a new manager. There are some great up-and-coming players, getting ready to make the step up to regular international level.
The reaction to The World Cup in Australia and New Zealand has been great. Each city has a different vibe to it, and Sydney in particular came alive on the opening day.
That being said, there has been a surprising lack of advertising and signage – and on some days, you’d wonder if there was even a World Cup going on at all.
Nonetheless, the atmosphere in the stands has been the best I’ve ever witnessed.
The influx of fans from faraway places – including South America and Africa, as well as Ireland! – has been great to see. Colombia and Brazil fans have been amazing: the Colombians were even in tears because of the intensity of their win over Germany.
The tournament has been full of surprises: you just never know what’s going to happen, which is great. On one screen, as I write, the U.S are playing a stalemate 0-0 with Portugal, while on another the Netherlands are cruising to a 7-0 victory.
Nigeria's win against Australia left the local stadium in shock. Indeed, the strong performances from African nations as a whole has been a wonderful story of this World Cup, when you consider how little attention and funding those teams get, in comparison to their European and North American counterparts.
Japan have emerged as dark horses and are my current favourite to go all the way, despite their less high-profile players and league. They play brilliantly as a team.
France and England are also in strong contention, while Sweden are showing promising potential as an outside bet. The U.S seem to be going through a re-building phase and look unlikely to take home a 5th trophy. Or that's the way I see it.
But you never know. Defend well and one piece of magic can make all the difference. Unfortunately Ireland didn't manage that conjuring trick often enough. Can the US deliver?
I'm still saying Japan will be champions. And that will be a proper breath of fresh air...
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All in all, this World Cup has been yet another significant steppingstone for the women's game.
It has done wonders for the sport In Ireland and now there’s an urgent need to capitalise on this momentum. Increased funding and attention towards the League of Ireland is crucial to promote the game even further and prevent the best talent from going abroad.
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