Can the ‘horrible team to play against’ shock Canada?

Can the 'horrible team to play against' shock Canada?

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Katie McCabe and Louise Quinn
Tempers frayed between Australia and the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup opener
Venue: Perth Rectangular Stadium Date: Wednesday, 26 July Kick-off: 13:00 BST
Coverage: Listen live on BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Sounds; live text and match report on the BBC Sport website

The Republic of Ireland may still be in the group stages of this tournament, but make no mistake – this is now knockout football.

While the Irish don’t need to beat Canada in their second World Cup match, defeat by the Olympic champions would spell the end of their tournament.

A draw may be enough to get through and a win would keep their own fate in their own hands. Regardless, a positive result means their destiny would be decided in the final group game with Nigeria.

The Republic’s World Cup opener against Australia showed positive signs but ended in defeat. Canada, on the other hand, were held by Nigeria and also need a strong result in Perth on Wednesday.

“What we saw from Ireland against Australia was everything we’ve scouted coming into the tournament,” said Canada boss Bev Priestman, who led the Maples to Olympic glory in 2021.

“Whenever they’ve played, we’ve seen that from them – that shape, that resilience that, doing whatever it takes not-to-concede mindset.

“They’re a team full of heart, spirit and passion. So when you compare that to Canada and what we’re known for, it’s going to make for a great game.

“I think from my perspective we have to match it and hope that our quality shines through but, first and foremost, match that passion and hard work.”

Priestman added the Irish are “a horrible team to play against” and they have nothing to lose when they face the Canadians.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on, so we one million per cent have to match that first,” she added.

“Ireland know that about Canada too. It’s probably a two-way street.

“Ultimately, we must stay with the process and what we think it will take to beat this Irish team. And stay clear-headed because there are parts of the Irish team where if you’re not careful you can be drawn into that and it can take you down a route that can take you off-task.

“We’ve got the experience in the team to correct that and bring out our quality when it matters.”

‘Winning starts with not losing’

Despite, on paper at least, the differences between the sides, they are in a very similar position. Ireland know their task – avoid defeat to stay in the competition.

However, anything but a win would leave Canada on the brink of elimination and needing a victory over co-hosts Australia in their final match.

The Republic frustrated Australia in their opener before conceding a soft penalty. That goal allowed the side to open up and press for a late equaliser, which they came agonisingly close to getting.

With their World Cup hopes on the line, Republic boss Vera Pauw says that she must find the balance between remaining solid and chasing the goal that would boost their chances of progression.

Both Canada and the Irish are as solid as they come defensively, but lack that clinical edge up front. That’s despite Canada having footballing royalty in Christine Sinclair, who has scored the most international goals in history.

Bev Priestman's Canada were frustrated by Nigeria in their Group B opener
Bev Priestman’s Canada were frustrated by Nigeria in their Group B opener

“Winning starts with not losing. That is very cliched but it is very much true,” said Pauw.

“If you play a game like this, against the Olympic champions, then you have to stay realistic.

“It is clear that we want to go through this group and we need a result.

“If we win we have it in our own hands. If we draw then we are dependent on other results.”

After days of glorious sunshine, rain hit Perth on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to linger in the air for match day.

It won’t dampen the spirits of the Irish fans, who are expected to descend upon Australia’s west coast and dominate the atmosphere, but they will hope, come full-time, the wet weather won’t reflect the mood around the Irish team.

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