Ireland 0 Sweden 1
An expected result but from an unexpected source. And an unexpected and a surprise declaration from the losing coach. “This will bring us to the World Cup,” Pauw declared boldly after expressing pride in a performance without a result.
For her promise to ring true, they must return from Finland with both on Tuesday.
Louise Quinn’s 12th international goal stunned Australia last month; in Tallaght, her luckless first-half own goal consigned a hugely committed defensive effort to naught.
A narrow scoreline wasn’t expected given the vast disparity in class but Pauw’s maturing side competed admirably in a game from which nobody expected them to get a result.
Denise O’Sullivan, who finished the game with a painful arm injury, may not now feature as she faces a scan her pained face revealed more than an X-ray might.
At times, it appeared Ireland were satisfied with the narrow deficit, as a blizzard of second-half system and personnel changes conflicted the players, often unsure when to attack in numbers instead of just defending en masse.
A late flurry hinted at what might have been had there been more support in attack against a vaunted defence who were often perturbed at the mildest of pressure.
Had Ireland persisted with the switch to two up front, and with captain Katie McCabe lying centrally, the final quarter could have been even more absorbing than it was for the Covid-capped full house in Tallaght.
“Sweden had to adjust to us which is a complement,” reasoned Pauw before revealing just why the luckless late first-half goal reflected any concession to grand forward gestures.
“It was better than before, we are stepping up and getting closer. It is such a shame that in one moment our organisation did not link, for the goal.
“I said ‘oops’ to my assistant because I could see the goal. You cannot go forward with the left and right winger because you leave the game open.
“I don’t have any doubt they will be ready on Tuesday, they are fired up to put the same performance on the pitch and get some points.”
Pauw made just one change to the side which stunned Australia here last month, with Megan Connolly coming into midfield to replace Amber Barrett.
Jamie Finn was tried out at right-back with Aine O’Gorman switching sides, which allowed Katie McCabe to push on in what was ostensibly a 3-5-2 but reverted to 5-4-1 in times of pressure, of which there were naturally many.
At the other end, Irish interest was brief, but intensive; McCabe essaying a series of jinks and weaves to leave Swedish defenders flailing in her wake but the final pass wasn’t there.
Nor for Sweden, perpetually huddled in the middle and corralled there expertly by a composed Irish defence.
The game’s dominant personality, Filippa Angeldahl, had a long-range effort that stung Brosnan’s fingers as the Swedes sought the opener they felt their possession of the ball deserved, if not their quality on it.
Ultimately, when their breakthrough arrived six minutes before the break, it was sugared with fortune; and salted with ill-luck for Louise Quinn.
The Swede’s other stand-out figure, Blackstenius, hit a weak shot which was probably going wide, were it not for Quinn’s straying leg, perhaps distracted by Savannah McCarthy’s slip.
That the goal derived from a counter after some sprightly Irish play, once again foundering on a lack of support and impatience in possession, hurt even more.
After the brief hiatus against Australia, self-imposed errors had returned to mock what had otherwise been a composed defensive display.
Ireland retained their defensive shape after the break, if starting a little higher, and did create a swift half-chance from a partially cleared Megan Connolly free-kick – created by more McCabe trickery on the left, which aroused the cautionable wrath of Sofia Jacobssen.
The ball fell to Quinn on the right edge, in space, but she rushed her effort and dragged it wide.
Hurtig joined Jacobssen in the book, causing Payne some pain, as Ireland enjoyed a decent spell without causing excessive alarm to the increasingly languid yellow shirts.
Finn’s nasty tackle, also carded, hinted at fatigued despair.
All the while, Pauw prowled, anxious enough to know that something needed to change to make things better but also aware uncertainty as to whether they would only make them worse.
Blackstenius and Rolfo tested Brosnan’s reflexes and the Irish netminder responded superbly once more. More than 100 yards away, Lindahl was a veritable spectator now as Ireland retreated into their former defensive state, with even McCabe dropping back once more.
Pauw decided upon her gambit with less than 20 minutes left, throwing on Leanne Kiernan and Amber Barrett for the tiring Finn and Connolly, and then even Louise Quinn for the inevitable, late frantic aerial assault.
Sadly, she could not atone.
Republic of Ireland - Brosnan; Fahey, Louise Quinn, McCarthy; O’Gorman, Connolly, Finn (Barrett 77), O’Sullivan, McCabe capt; Lucy Quinn (Noonan 90), Payne (Kiernan 76).
Sweden – Lindahl; Glas, Ilesedt, Eriksson, Andersson; Bennison (Olme 76), Reifo, Amgeldal; Jakobsson (Fischer 89), Blackstenius, Hurtig (Scough 60).
Referee – D Anex (Sui)