Ireland Women Are Facing Their Biggest Match Ever This Weekend
Ireland's women's soccer team will play arguably the biggest game in their history this Friday night as they take on Ukraine in Kyiv with a place at Women's Euro 2021 in the balance.
Ireland currently sit in one of the qualification places for the European Championships, ahead of Ukraine and behind runaway leaders Germany, with two teams making it out of the group and advancing to the Finals. The Girls in Green beat Ukraine 3-2 in a thriller in Tallaght last year, going 2-0 up, getting pegged back to 2-2 and then scoring a winner.
Should they beat Ukraine, Ireland will ensure a playoff place to qualify for their first ever tournament and give themselves a decent chance of being one of the top three second-placed sides that would advance directly to the Euros. Ukraine are currently seven points behind Ireland with a game in hand and so could overhaul the Irish if they were victorious in their remaining fixtures and Ireland fail to win theirs, which, given that Ireland's only other match is against Germany, seems likely.
Dutch coach Vera Paul said that her side were well aware of the importance of the fixture. "It's a final, it's a final for everybody - for the Ukraine and for us," she told the BBC. "The strength of Ukraine and us is very, very close at the moment. I was talking to one player and she said this was most likely the most important game of her career - and she is one of the veterans."
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The FAI have chartered a flight for the game, a first for the Women's national team, and they have been in a training camp in Germany ahead of travelling to Kyiv to keep the risk of postive COVID-19 at bay.
Ireland can boast some real superstars. Their captain, Katie McCabe, plays for Arsenal in the Women's Super League in England and has already managed five assists this season, while Niamh Fahey is currently captain of Liverpool Women. Brighton's Rianna Jarrett, Denise O'Sullivan and Megan Connolly have also starred in the WSL, while several other players, such as FC Köln's Amber Barrett and SC Sand's Diane Caldwell play in Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga.
Euro 2021 is set to be held in England in the summer of 2022, having been postponed by a year to accommodate the men's Euros, which were due to be held this year but were also postponed.
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