Ireland manager Vera Pauw has said she felt like “the whole of Ireland” was behind her team as they qualified for the World Cup playoffs last night.
Ireland came out 1-0 winners over Finland at the Tallaght stadium last night to take another step towards the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Pauw said she was incredibly proud of the team – but cautioned that they’re not ready to party just yet.
She praised her players for putting in an “absolute team performance” and said all eyes are now on next Tuesday’s game in Slovakia.
“There are a few games to go before we can celebrate qualification for the World Cup and somehow we have to get our feet back on the ground today,” she said.
“We said to each other we are going to celebrate. This is a moment we really need to embrace but yeah, we’re not going to party yet
“Then [Ireland captain] Katie McCabe shouted out, can we celebrate after Slovakia? So, I said yeah then we have to party. We’ll have a party in Slovakia.”
She said the Irish fans really pushed the team on.
“When we were on the bus, everybody was putting the Klaxon on and waving and I had the feeling that the whole of Ireland was behind us and was cheering us on,” she said.
“I have no words. Usually, I know what to say but I don’t know what to say.”
The Dutch national said Finland surprised her team with their tactics in the first half – but after Ireland got to grips with things, they controlled the game.
They eventually won out thanks to a looping headed goal from midfielder Lily Agg – but Pauw said the wind was down to an “absolute team performance.”
“You always have a few that stand out but that’s because of the work of others,” she said.
“You can see how our defensive line has been battling and battling also in the very difficult moments and throwing themselves about and risking their own bodies to get this result.
“The way that we have, actually, hardly given any chances away, that is phenomenal.
“We had seven fouls in the whole game, in a game like this which is so difficult and two of those fouls we thought were the other way around. So that is something so special.”
The Ireland manager also praised the professional of the squad players, who were immediately focused on getting ready for next week.
“I don’t know if it was on TV, but our subs went out and did their running program immediately after the celebrations,” she said. “They were straight out on the pitch – what team would do that?
“Most teams would say let’s leave the runs, we’ve qualified for the playoffs, but this team wants to take the best out of it and there were nine players I think doing the running programme and that is an intense programme, it’s not fun to do.”
She said the squad will gather for training today before taking a day off tomorrow.
After that, “it’s all about Slovakia.”
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Main image shows Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw celebrating at the final whistle of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and Finland at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin, 01-09-2022. Image: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile