Shannon Smyth is hoping that the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team can finish their World Cup qualifying campaign on a high when they meet Canada-bound Germany on Wednesday in the Voith-Arena, Heidenheim at 5pm (Irish time).
The World No.2 and European champions captured top spot in Group 1 and booked their place in next summer’s World Cup Finals with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Russia in Moscow on Saturday but Smyth reckons that Silvia Neid’s team won’t be switching off even though their job is done.
“I think the Germans will be extremely professional and they will treat this like any other match,” said the 27-year old who is from Milwaukee but now plays her club football in Norway with Amazon Grimstad.
“I think especially since we gave them such a hard time in Ireland they will be out to prove a point and in the same sense I think we can prove a point that that wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t a mistake. I think we are looking to come up strong and confident. We will respect them, but not too much!”
Smyth reckons that Wednesday’s game is an opportunity for the team to see if they have learned the lessons from this year-long qualifying campaign and find out how close they are to being able to mix it with the top teams in Europe.
“I think for me and the team as a whole that’s the professional part. You can’t just have random games at the top level. It’s about maintaining that professionalism, mentality, fitness and commitment to tactics. I think it will be a really good test for us and it is important for us to finish the group on a high note.”
The Irish have an outside chance of finishing second in Group 1 but to do so they need improving Croatia to beat Russia while they must inflict a rare defeat on the Germans, something they came very close to doing in Tallaght Stadium last March when they led for over an hour and were only denied a draw by a fluke goal deep into injury-time.
With only the four best runners-up from the seven groups qualifying for the play-offs, it is unlikely that Ireland will be in the shake-up for the one main remaining European place at the World Cup Finals but Smyth feels that the campaign, which has already yielded a record-breaking 17 points, has been a positive one.
“We had a disappointing moment early in the campaign when we drew away to Croatia but it was a turning point for us in our mentality and then we got narrowly beaten by Germany at home which was a fantastic match for us as players and for our fans. We’ve been getting the job done all through the campaign and being consistent and I think that is great credit to our mentality. All those last minute goals show we persevere and we press on. The professional approach to each match and the commitment of each player throughout the whole campaign to do the job means it has been an exciting campaign,” said Smyth.
The new found-mentality within the squad that Smyth talks about was clearly seen on Saturday afternoon in Slovakia when, after battering the home goal and hitting the woodwork three times, the Irish produced a sublime winner in the 92 minute to finally break the deadlock and take all three points.
“I guess we need the full 90 to score these days but we were professional about it. All of us on the pitch knew we would get it, it just a matter of when. We stayed calm and we played with our eyes open. We connected a few passes and Dora played a brilliant ball through. Steph’s blindside run was spot on and, fair play to her, it was a great finish in the final minute. We kept calm and made a good play.”
The Irish squad flew in Stuttgart yesterday evening and trained today at their base in Ulm. Arsenal defender Niamh Fahey is a major doubt for Wednesday after picking up a knee injury on Saturday against Slovakia and is awaiting the results of a scan. Raheny United’s Siobhan Killeen, who started against Slovakia, is out with concussion and will be replaced by her Raheny team-mate Rachel Graham.
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