Gleeson focused on Spanish inquisition
IT'S NOT quite the unstoppable force versus the immovable object, but Jessica Gleeson believes that Ireland can stop free-scoring Spain in their tracks when the two teams meet tomorrow in the final of the UEFA Women's U-17 Championship at Nyon, Switzerland.
The Spanish side cruised into the final with a 3-0 semi-final victory over the Netherlands -- making it 36 goals in their European campaign thus far -- although 21 of them came in one incredible victory over Armenia in the qualifiers.
In marked contrast, the Irish defence have conceded only three goals in seven games and Gleeson -- one half of a solid centre-half partnership alongside Bealnamulla's Jennifer Byrne -- maintains that they are well able to contain the Spaniards.
"Spain's attacking record in this competition is very impressive, but let's not forget that we have one of the best defensive records and we are confident that we will be capable of keeping them quiet in front of goal," insisted the Tramore girl.
"Defensively, I think that we are well organised and the strikers and midfielders must get credit for that as well, because we defend from the front as a team.
"Expectations at home and around Europe have been raised significantly after our wins against Sweden and Germany, but we know fully that we haven't won anything yet.
"We will go into the final full of confidence after our performance in the semi-final, but we know that we are up against a very good team."
Byrne stressed that, while the team have already made history by qualifying for the final and also for the World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago next September, nobody is getting carried away.
"Playing in the final is a dream come true for all of the Irish players here. Obviously, we were all thrilled at beating Germany (a 1-0 victory in the semi-final), but that's not the be-all and end-all for this team. We know we can go further," explained Byrne.
"Before the semi-final, we knew that if we stuck to our game plan we would have a genuine chance of winning the competition and we haven't lost sight of that goal.
"I don't think that anybody in the squad has seriously thought about the World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago just yet because we are fully focused on the final."