Vera Pauw has told her Republic of Ireland side to have “no fear of failure” as they face up to the toughest task in European football with their battle at home to the second-best team in the world.
Pauw’s side will hope to put behind them a poor end to their European Championship qualifying campaign, where the Irish side finished third, and make a decent stab at qualifying for the 2023 World Cup finals.
Although, a fixture list which saw a winnable opening qualifier in Georgia postponed for Covid-related reasons and then forced Ireland to begin against the highly-rated Swedes has done them no favours.
A sell-out crowd in Tallaght Stadium, a game played just hours before the cap of 50 per cent capacity for outdoor events is lifted, could be treated to a masterclass by the Swedes but Pauw says her side have to be prepared.
“We don’t fear, we have no fear of failure and we will see what we can do tonight, but I have to be honest, Sweden are second in the world and it is another level,” Pauw admitted, this game tonight a stern test of Ireland’s status ahead of Tuesday’s Finland clash.
“We take it game by game, tonight we have a huge game, probably the highest level game ever, we focus on that and look after Finland after that. They have 11 elite players, of the elite Champions League/Olympic/World Cup level on the pitch. We know what we will face. Let’s be realistic, Sweden will push us back.
“It’s fantastic to play high opposition, we love it. We have a team who have no fear of failure, but we are realistic where we stand, we are 33 in the ranking list, Sweden are second, finalists at the Olympic Games,” the Dutch native added.
Meanwhile, Niamh Fahey believes even the absence through injury of Sweden’s top scorer, Real Madrid’s Kosovare Asllani (39 international goals) offers no succour as the women who fill her boots, and those of absent captain Caroline Seger (who scored a mere 31 goals from midfield), are as good.
Asked to pick out the main dangerwomen to Ireland, Fahey answers bluntly, “all of them”.
“There is goals everywhere, we have looked at them, we know the quality they have and it would be unfair to target one when there is so many,” says the Liverpool centre back, closing in on the 100-cap mark.
“The strength in depth in their squad is huge and I am sure Sweden are pretty confident without those players, even with the stature of those players.
“They are second-ranked in the world, so if we managed to do the unthinkable it would be one of the greatest results ever to go down in Irish football. That’s what’s at stake.
“They have an awful lot of quality in their starting XI, in the whole squad, it’s a daunting prospect and we are aware of it, but as a player this is what you want to do, to test yourself against the best in the world and that’s where Sweden are at, it’s an exciting prospect for all the players.”
Fahey was part of the side which suffered during a seven-game losing streak, but the mantra from manager Vera Pauw at the time – that the Irish side needed to test themselves in friendly games against decent opposition instead of easily beating minnows – could stand to them in the tests ahead, at home to the Swedes and away to Finland.
“You always learn more in defeat than you do in victory, you learn a lot about the squad from setbacks, being resilient, we have learned a lot in the games against top-quality opposition and that will stand us in good stead, all part of our development and they have been really useful games for us,” Fahey added.
Pauw will look to her experienced defence of Fahey, Louise Quinn and Savannah McCarthy, who have 187 caps between them, to stem that Swedish side, aided by veterans Aine O’Gorman and Katie McCabe out wide.