Sarina Wiegman on what Ireland will bring to Aviva showdown: ‘They are a physical team, very well organised and can play counterattack.’


Credit: Macdara Ferris

Macdara Ferris reports from the Aviva Stadium

Heavy rain fell on Lansdowne Road on Monday as the heavy hitters arrived in Dublin. England have come to town and on the eve of their game with Ireland, their Head Coach Sarina Wiegman and Arsenal star Leah Williamson spoke to the assembled media just prior to the Lionesses training on the Aviva Stadium pitch.

The English press pack travelled across the Irish Sea in large numbers. The Lionesses team deserve the extensive coverage they get. European Champions, World Cup runners up and a squad full of the superstars of the women’s game. 

The top four sides in the WSL supply the bulk of the 23-player squad – Manchester City (6), Chelsea (5), Arsenal (3) and Manchester United (4) with two players lining out for Champions League holders Barcelona.

Looking to retain their European crown, it wasn’t the start England wanted on Friday. While France beat Ireland 1-0 in Metz, Wiegman’s side were being held to a 1-1 draw by Sweden.

“It was a very tough game,” said Wiegman about last week’s draw at Wembley. “Sweden challenged us technically, we struggled a little bit out and in possession. We had some good moments, the moment before we scored (through Alessia Russo) we had momentum and kept the ball better.

"When we conceded there were some moments we definitely could have done better. Tomorrow will be a different game against a very different opponent.

“(Ireland) were promoted to this group. We never underestimate anyone especially Ireland. They had a 1-0 result against France which I think was really good.

"They are a physical team, very well organised and can play counterattack. They will try to take the opportunity moments of trying to jump out so we’ll be aware of that. Their defence will definitely be difficult to break down.”

It was very much a backs-to-the-wall performance from Ireland against Les Bleues on Friday night but the 30,000+ spectators in the Aviva on Tuesday will be hoping for the Girls in Green to show more attacking threat. Ireland could only muster one shot on goal in the whole of the game against France.

Wiegman’s assessment is that Ireland “are very compact, very physical, very well-organised and disciplined. Dangerous on the counter attack too, and if they do get some space, they can come out and attack and create some chances.

"They look like a very strong team together too, and they have had quite a journey, making the World Cup, winning their Nations League group and now being here. It is a team, it is their togetherness and they have a strict plan and can be physical too.”

Ireland will have to successfully marshal the attacking threats of the likes of Russo and Keira Walsh but Weigmann noted that she doesn’t want her team “to be dependent on one player”. 

“We have 10 other players who can receive the ball. You want to play forward and get behind the defence, create chances and score goals and there are different ways to do that.

"Keira is an important player to get on the ball and pass but there are more players who can pass the ball. We’ll see tomorrow how we can solve that.”

All expectations are that France, England and Sweden will be battling it out for the two automatic qualification positions in this group.

Having dropped points at home to Sweden on opening night, there is a certain amount of pressure on England but when asked was Tuesday’s game in Dublin a must-win, the Head Coach said “I don’t really talk about it as must-win. We really want to win this game.

"It’s hard to predict where this group goes to so you go out and try to play the best game and win the next one.

“We know a win puts us in a better position and a bad result puts us in a harder position but there are still four opportunities to change that around.”