Irish World Cup fate hangs on Norway trip
Women's World Cup Norway v Rep of Ireland (KO 5.00 , live RTÉ 2)
The Irish camp know that it's win or bust for their 2019 World Cup hopes when they take on a classy Norway side this evening.
After their best-ever start to a qualifying campaign, which yielded three wins and a draw from the first four games, things now look a lot more nervy for Colin Bell's side, as back-to-back losses have put them in the position of needing to beat Norway in Stavanger tonight to have a chance of qualifying for the finals in France next year.
European champions Holland have effectively won the group already as they are four points clear of second-placed Norway, with two games left to play, and the Dutch expect to account for bottom side Slovakia tonight, the Slovaks with no points to show from five outings.
Last week's home game with Norway was a chance for Ireland to push for second spot, but the 2-0 loss in Tallaght means Irish hopes are all riding on this game.
"It's a simple equation for us now and in many ways, that can make the picture a lot clearer for the players," manager Bell said.
"We've obviously just suffered defeat against Norway, but we've been able to pick out so much from that game which we can learn from. There were a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes in the game and the players have been able to see that.
"We've got to take what we've learnt into tonight's game and try our best to get the result we need. We've made a lot of progress throughout the campaign, but we want to go all the way and so do the players."
Defender Áine O'Gorman agrees. "Hopefully, it's going to be a good day and we can cause a major upset in the group. I think we probably need a win to stay in the running," she said, stressing the disappointment of losing at home to Norway and also the manner of the defeat, Norway's goals scored from set-plays.
"We're probably disappointed with the goals we conceded but tonight we're really looking forward to the challenge, to pull off something special," added O'Gorman, the Peamount United player ready to win her 100th cap this evening.
Manager Bell has had to cope with the loss of key players in the campaign and tonight is another case of that.
German-based defender Diane Caldwell misses out through suspension as she picked up her third booking of the campaign in the home loss to Norway and fellow defender Harriet Scott is out with a knee injury, posing problems at the back for Bell, though Louise Quinn will play on with a protective face mask.
"We worked hard with Harriet to try and get her fit but it wasn't to be," added Bell.
"I'm never going to risk the health of one of my players so I've made that decision to leave her out. It's been great to have her around the squad, though, as she's an important part of the journey we're on and a great influence on the other players.
"We've been able to get Louise a mask so she should be OK for the match. We'll obviously monitor it to make sure she feels she can play with the mask but her desire to play has been admirable."