·26 July 2023
·26 July 2023
The Republic of Ireland’s first Women’s World Cup campaign ended in heartbreak as Canada came from behind to beat Vera Pauw’s side 2-1 in Perth.
Katie McCabe’s stunning opener gave Ireland an early lead in front of a partisan crowd of more than 17,000. Megan Connolly’s own goal levelled proceedings before the break before Adriana Leon’s 53rd-minute goal was enough to secure a first win of the tournament for Bev Priestman’s side.
Pauw cut a proud but dejected figure as her team succumbed to defeat. “I’m obviously very disappointed that we couldn’t get back into the game, but I’m so proud of what we showed here,” she said.
Asked what the difference was between the two sides, she said: “Experience. It is what we lack. This is our first World Cup and you could see that Canada have many behind them. It shows in the way that they wait for those few moments and that they know how to react in situations.”
Called the group of death by many, Group B remained one of the most open going into the second match day. The Republic of Ireland, ranked 22nd in the world, had the odds stacked against them. After an opening defeat against Australia in Sydney, Pauw’s side knew that defeat would mean the end of their tournament while victory would leave their World Cup fate in their hands.
Both sides had injury worries in the lead-up to this match. Jessie Fleming had missed Canada’s opening draw against Nigeria but was declared fit to lead Priestman’s team while Kadeisha Buchanan returned from illness. It meant there was no place for Christine Sinclair who, at 40, is featuring in her sixth World Cup.
There were mixed fortunes for the Irish before kick-off. Their stalwart at the back, Louise Quinn, was declared fit after suffering a scare against Australia. Conversely, Heather Payne pulled up in the warm-up and was replaced before kick-off by the experienced Áine O’Gorman. Pauw made just one change otherwise, bringing in the more forward-minded Lucy Quinn for Marissa Sheva, demonstrating attacking intent.
It was a decision that paid off in the early stages with Ireland full of running. A quick early break led to Kailen Sheridan keeping out the energetic Kyra Carusa. From the subsequent corner, the opener came in stunning style with just four minutes on the clock. McCabe, Ireland’s captain, whipped in direct from a corner, a spectacular inswinger that dipped over the despairing Canada keeper and into the back of the net.
Ireland could hardly have asked for a better start and could have made it two shortly after. Carusa was involved once more to set up Sinead Farrelly. The midfielder took aim only to see her effort tipped wide by Sheridan at full stretch.
Canada grew into the game as they began to control possession and, with half-time beckoning, they stuck a dagger into Irish hearts. Julia Grosso broke into space and delivered a cross that was diverted by the despairing Connolly into her own net.
Priestman turned to her more experienced players, bringing on more than 600 caps’ worth of experience. The addition of Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt brought composure and directness to Canada’s play that gave them a foothold in the game.
The warning signs were coming for Ireland when Courtney Brosnan was required to save off Jordyn Huitema at full stretch. Minutes later, Schmidt’s pinpoint pass split the Ireland defence for Leon to break through and score. It was Canada’s most incisive moment of the match and would prove the winner.
It was a goal that sent shockwaves through Ireland, and they struggled to recover their energy from the first half. Late chances fell to McCabe and Lily Agg, on as a substitute, but they could not find the clinical finishing needed. As the final whistle blew, the Irish dropped to their knees as they realised their journey had ended.
Canada, meanwhile, celebrated, with Priestman remarking it could be “the making of” them. “I felt that we wobbled in the first half. Our bravery wasn’t there, and we played a little bit scared… These moments build character and experience that we can build upon.” It is a victory that will fill the Canadians with confidence ahead of their final group match against the co-hosts, Australia.