Ireland 0 Denmark 1
Vera Pauw insists her side will keep improving once they get more exposure to the best teams in world football.
A second successive defeat to one of the continent’s best, following the German loss last year, demonstrated the steps Ireland have taken but the lengths they still need to travel.
Nicoline Sorensen’s first-half goal, a sloppy concession from a poorly-defended cross, condemned her side to defeat but Emily Whelan could have capped an impressive display from the bench with a late shot that slammed the side-netting.
Captain Katie McCabe also smacked the crossbar with a second-half volley to almost punish Danish profligacy in front of goal.
Pauw conceded the best team won but also that her side are getting better.
“We did really well against a team ranked 14th in the world, you can see the quality they had in the squad, their dynamism and individual class and for us to put that game against them was another step up.
“Until now every game is getting better and I said to them they don’t know how good they are.
“I don’t think it is belief, it’s experience that they can do this. They have the heart and belief and I didn’t feel fear but somewhere deep inside, if you’ve never controlled games like this, you don’t know how to so they will learn.
“They improved the longer the game went on. The aim was to control this game and I think we got there. We need more of these games and sadly FIFA have restricted those opportunities.
“It’s such a shame that we’re in the phase of losing with goals like that but this will be behind us now.
“We had three or four chances if I’m biased, they only had one or two. But they deserved to win because they dominated. It’s such a shame that we didn’t get a draw.”
The Danes reached the finals of the last European Championships and are embarking upon intense preparations for the next Euros; Ireland, ranked joint 31st, 17 places below them, remain in the foothills.
For long spells yesterday evening however, it wasn’t always easy to discern that the gulf between these pair is so vast; Denmark deserved their victory, of that there is little doubt.
They created the superior chances, and more of them; but Ireland, growing into their 3-5-2, did enough in brief flurries of possession, and composed defending, to hold their own.
Ireland’s midfield competed stoutly all evening and Megan Connolly and Jamie Finn were outstanding; it may not have been an occasion for Denise O’Sullivan’s sparkling skills as she was herself well-marshalled all evening. They will regret the early concession of a poor goal, a badly defended cross swept home by the otherwise profligate NicolineSorensen.
But for the woodwork, captain KatieMcCabe may have nicked her side a draw few would have cavilled with.
Emily Whelan made a fine impression from the bench and is surely pressing for a start in Brussels against Belgium this Sunday.
Ireland’s 3-5-2 system appears to be a work in progress worth persisting with and the players afterwards expressed their renewed faith in it, especially as it gives Ireland’s wing-backs a licence to embellish often threadbare attacks.
But Ireland’s growing confidence will not be too damaged by either the result or the performance.
As the World Cup qualification process begins later this year, their task is to accelerate the closing of the gap between them and the best, as well as ensuring they display their ability to trump the rest – twin aims which have been beyond their grasp recent years.
Before the game, goalkeeper Marie Hourihan (hip) and defender Niamh Farrelly (ankle) were ruled out of this week’s double-header for the Pauw’s side.
They picked up the knocks in their last club games and it was hoped thatthey might pull through but a decision was made after training on Wednesday.
Midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn (foot) also missed out after picking up a knock in training but will be part of the squad for Belgium on Sunday in Brussels.
Ireland – G Moloney; N Fahey, L Quinn, D Caldwell; K Kennan (Á O’Gorman 72), M Connolly (E Molloy 62), K McCabe; D O’Sullivan, J Finn; H Payne (E Whelan h-t), A Barrett (R Jarrett 62).
Denmark – L Christensen; R Sevecke, S Boye, K Veje; N Sorensen, S Troelsgaard (L Gevitz 72), S Junge (E Snerie h-t), S Svava (F Thogersen 62); S Bruun (O Holdt 72), P Harder, N Naim (S Larsen 80).
Ref – L Thompson (NIR)
Women's World Cup Premium
With the pain of Euros heartache still fresh in the memory, this evening’s friendly in Tallaght is the first step towards focusing on a new target for Vera Pauw’s Ireland.