Saturday 16 December 2017

Roche draws comfort

Stephanie Roche Photo: Sportsfile
Stephanie Roche Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Stephanie Roche feels the Irish women's team can break their qualification duck by reaching the 2019 World Cup in France following yesterday's draw in Nyon.

Colin Bell's team will kick-off the campaign in September after being grouped with 1995 World champions Norway, Netherlands, Slovakia and Northern Ireland.

To progress automatically, Ireland must top the group. Only the four best runners-up across seven pools clinch a play-off place to decide on the final two qualifiers from Europe.

Ireland have struggled to compete for qualification in recent campaigns, not helped by getting drawn against the heavyweights of Germany and Spain, yet their opposition for this tilt offers encouragement. Top seeds Norway are not the daunting opponents they once were.

"It's a draw we have to be happy with," said Roche in Wicklow yesterday at the launch of the "Londis Hell and Back" campaign.

"We've avoided the likes of Germany and England and will fancy giving each of the teams a game on our day.

"We did alright in friendlies against Norway and Holland at the La Manga tournament not that long ago, and many of their players we see in the English league, so we'll know what to expect.

"There's no point going into any of those qualifiers looking for a draw. The format makes it difficult to qualify and we'll be aiming for as many victories as possible."

Ireland have friendlies against Iceland (June 8) and Scotland (July 7) before the qualification campaign begins in the autumn.

Irish Independent

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