THE IRELAND WOMEN’S national football team have discovered who they will face in the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
Ranked 21st in the world, the Girls in Green went into today’s draw in Nyon as third seeds and were pulled out alongside Northern Ireland (55th), Norway (11th), the Netherlands (12th) and Slovakia (41) in Group C.
The first round of matches will see Colin Bell’s side make the short trip to take on Northern Ireland on 19 September, and the seven group winners qualify for the 2019 finals in France, while the four best runners-up meet in two-legged play-offs.
It’s been a turbulent month for the Irish players, who went public on their dissatisfaction with the working conditions before an agreement was reached with the FAI.
They went on to beat Slovakia 1-0 in a friendly at Tallaght Stadium, and meet Iceland (8 June) and Scotland (7 July) in warm-up games this summer.
Current manager Bell took the job in February and the Englishman, a Women’s Champions League-winning manager at FFC Frankfurt, is aiming to reach a major international tournament in his first attempt.
“Obviously, the draw is something you can’t influence but looking at it, it’s good for us logistically,” said Bell. “There will be a bit of travelling with Slovakia but with the other nations, they’re all pretty close which is great.
“I know Norway well having worked over there before and they’ve plenty of top players throughout the squad. Ada Hegerberg is one of the best strikers in the world and they’ve got plenty of quality on the wings as well.
“Netherlands have really come on in the last year or so and have a number of players who will be able to create problems for any team in the world so we’re under no illusions that it will be tough.
“It’ll all be in our preparation though and we’ve got to use the next friendly games to continue our good form to make sure we’re in the strongest possible position going into the qualifying stage.”
Here’s the draw in full:
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