Ireland under-19 women beat Sweden to reach European Championship semi-finals
Dave Connell’s side top the pool and will now face Netherlands in last four in Oslo
The Ireland Under-19 women’s team who beat Sweden 2-1 to reach the semi-finals of the European Championships.
Republic of Ireland 2 Sweden 1
The Republic of Ireland Under-19s are the talk of European women’s football after they secured their place in the Uefa Championship semi-finals in style at the UKI Arena in Oslo.
Requiring just a point in their concluding Group B against 2012 champions Sweden to progress, Dave Connell’s side fell behind after just eight minutes but saw out the mission with aplomb courtesy of goals from Savannah McCarthy and Megan Connolly.
Their reward for topping their pool with maximum points is a semi-final meeting against the Netherlands on Thursday, with a place in Sunday’s final very much within their capabilities.
As was the case in the previous wins over Spain and England, last night provided a test for the young Irish girls that they thrived on.
The Swedes, chasing a two-goal victory to guarantee them a semi-final berth, executed long-ball tactics in the second half, a game-plan easily nullified by the Irish who made their pathway that bit easier by sinking a winning goal ten minutes from the end through Connolly’s stellar free-kick.
“Our girls have beaten the top three seeds at these finals and they certainly won’t fear the Dutch in the semis,” declared Connell afterwards.
“There’s no substitute for hard work and the team more than matched a good Swedish team both for effort and skill. This team doesn’t know when they’re beaten.”
A potential issue during the group decider was the soaring heat in Oslo, necessitating Uefa to grant Ireland’s request for water breaks in each half.
By the time the first of those arrived in the opening half, the nations had traded a goal apiece. Very much against the run of play, Stina Blackstenius outwitted the onrushing goalkeeper Brooke Dunne by latching onto a long pass, rounding the stopper before angling the opener home for the Swedes.
Though Connell gave his star striker Clare Shine a rest, the Irish have goals in spades from all parts of the team. Centre-back McCarthy repeated the trick she produced against England by connecting her head with Connolly’s deep free-kick and looping it over stranded goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.
Another set-piece undid the Swedish late on, as a foul on Katie McCabe on the left allowed Connolly step up and curl the resultant free beyond the ‘keeper and in off the crossbar.
It was a goal that killed the Swedes’ challenge and silenced their manager Calle Carrling.
“When we beat them in a friendly in March, he (Carrling) called us a hurling team,” explained Connell. “He wasn’t saying that after this result.”
REP OF IRELAND: Dunne (Peamount Utd); Keenan (Shelbourne), McCarthy (Listowel Celtic), O’Connell (Wilton), Wright (Texas University); Mustaki (Peamount Utd); Dwyer (Wexford Yths), Connolly (College Corinthians); O’Connor (Wilton), McCabe (Raheny Utd), Rowe (Castlebar Celtic). Subs: Shine (Raheny Utd) for Rowe (59 mins), Carson (Holyhill) for McCabe (87 mins).
SWEDEN: Musovic; Ekholm, Bjorn, E Karlsson, N Karlsson; F Anderson, Hurtig, Wahlberg, Curmark; Blackstenius, Zigiotti-Olme. Subs: Ökvist for Curmark (46 mins), Jansson for Zigiotti-Olme (70 mins), Angeldal for F Anderson (76 mins).
Referee: Zuzana Kovázová (SVK)