Ireland ready to start their own party against the best Swedes in the hunt for the World Cup

BELIEVE.

WHILE SWEDEN suggests how to ‘maybe have a chance’ against them, the message coming from the Irish quarters is a little more pared down.

The promotional piece at Dublin Airport was certainly striking en route to Gothenburg; a nice touch amid the current departure chaos.

At the center of Sky’s new campaign, which revolves around the first tv commercial for girls in greenis Louise Quinn.

The embodiment of unbelief.

Referring to her side’s 2-0 win at record low Birmingham City over Arsenal in the Women’s Super League this season, she smiled:

“It just goes to show that if you know your role on the day, if you execute it very well, if you work extremely hard and take a chance from the start, it’s so possible…

“Really, really possible.”

Ireland will face the second-ranked team in world football tonight at the Gamla Ullevi Stadium [KO 5.30pm, Irish time]with Swedes on the verge of automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup.

A single point will see Peter Gerhardsson’s star-studded outfit through, and perhaps allow them to focus entirely on getting up to their favorite tag – rather than worrying about how others may stop them – at the Championships. Europe this summer.

The Euros that Ireland missed so devastatingly. But that bid to reach a first-ever major tournament is firmly on track, as Vera Pauw’s side sit second in Group A, rising in the race for the coveted play-off spot.

Anything other than a defeat in Gothenburg would, in truth, be a bonus. The result isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, as it all comes down to a decisive double-header against Finland (home) and Slovakia (away) in September.

That said, an extra point – or three, if they truly believe and cause a monumental shock – would definitely be nice.

Generally, however, Ireland face it, with a necessary defensive reshuffling. Regulars Savannah McCarthy and Diane Caldwell are both ruled out through injury, and there is a spot left of the back three.

Should Pauw stick to her proven training, that is. Claire Walsh, Claire O’Riordan and Chloe Mustaki are among the options if a straight trade is on the cards.

Sweden could be forced to make their own changes, with three players including Barcelona ace Fridolina Rolfö in doubt due to illness.

But the Tokyo 2020 Olympics silver medalists have a host of global superstars in their ranks, with absolutely no question marks over their squad depth.

While Stina Blackstenius has been named as a standout attacking threat – the Arsenal star’s strike resulted in the decisive own goal in Dublin – the hosts have a wide range of goalscorers, with 26 goals scored so far this campaign.

They hit 15 against the Georgia Minnows last week and will be asking for more tonight. At the other end, they have only conceded once, so Ireland will have to really click and be clinical in the final third if they are to threaten.

Ireland celebrate their 3-2 friendly win over Australia last year.

Credit: James Crombie/INPHO

Across all of their media roles, Girls In Green have made no secret of the scale of the challenge ahead – but they know exactly what they have to do.

Patience will be a virtue as Sweden will undoubtedly dominate possession, driven by a record home crowd.

The Swedish Football Federation announced yesterday morning that 12,000 tickets had been sold, and a full house of between 14,000 and 15,000 is expected. A carnival atmosphere, therefore. A real party, with big celebrations on the horizon if they seal the deal.

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“They’ll be looking to get the job done and get through and hopefully we can spoil the party,” Ruesha Littlejohn said last week.

Pauw, however, turned the spotlight in his pre-match press conference yesterday.

“To spoil the party for Sweden, we’re not busy with that at all,” the manager said. “At all.

“Because it’s a huge game, and we have enough to face. If you get a result here, of course it would be magical.

Magic, indeed.

They’ve done it before – remember the 0-0 draw against the Netherlands in Nijmegen in 2017 – why can’t they do it again?

There’s no reason they can’t be at the table of the best with the best, throwing their own parties in the near future.

“We definitely have the caliber of players to be up there,” enthused Katie McCabe yesterday. “We definitely want to be a team that’s hard to play against, teams hate to play against, give that fight.

“In October we also showed some good glimpses of how we can play. Yes, we can defend in a low block, but we can show how far we go with the Denise O’Sullivans and Heather Paynes. We know our qualities and what we are good at and we will take that into account tomorrow.

Maybe, just maybe, Ireland might have a chance…

BTL5

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