Ireland cruise past France to keep World Cup hopes alive

Women’s side will now meet Belarus on Saturday for a place in Sunday’s final

Ireland’s Roisiín Upton celebrates after scoring in their World Cup qualifier against France. Photo: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

Ireland’s Roisiín Upton celebrates after scoring in their World Cup qualifier against France. Photo: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

 

Ireland 4 (R Upton, H McLoughlin, Z Malseed, N Carey), France 1 (G van Bolhuis)

Ireland overcame their first hurdle at the World Cup qualifiers in Pisa on Thursday morning when they beat France 4-1 to advance to Saturday’s semi-final against Belarus (11.0 am Irish time). The winner of that game goes through to Sunday’s final where the prize for whoever prevails will be a place in next year’s World Cup in Spain and the Netherlands.

Despite enjoying the bulk of the possession and creating the clearer chances, it took Ireland 32 minutes to break French resistance, Roisín Upton firing home from a penalty corner won by Sarah Hawkshaw.

They were, though, indebted to Ayeisha McFerran six minutes later when she pulled off a superb save to deny Marie Simon from her corner strike, but Ireland stepped up a gear in the final quarter to make the game safe.

Soon after Michelle Carey hit the French post having being put through by Deirdre Duke, Hannah McLoughlin made it 2-0 with a reverse from a penalty corner rebound, maintaining her form in front of goal this season having scored eight in just five games for UCD.

Ards’ Zara Malseed stretched the lead just three minutes later and while Guusje van Bolhuis pulled one back for France within a minute, Niamh Carey responded instantly by marking her debut with a goal, the UCD player, Michelle’s twin, first to the rebound after Ellen Curran’s shot was saved.

“It’s something we talked about, sticking to the process no matter how long the game went on at 0-0, or even if we concede,” said Upton. “We were really pleased we stuck to the plan and broke through. We knew we needed to win corners - the execution in the first half wasn’t so good so we had to pick it up and nail it. Getting on the scoresheet early in the second half settled everyone.”

As the tournament’s top seeds, Ireland will be favourites to get the better of Belarus who, at 21, are ranked nine places below them in the world list. They’ll be wary of them, though, after they hammered a Russian side ranked above them 7-1 in the opening game in Pisa.

Ireland: McFerran, M Carey, Upton, Mullan, Tice, Carroll, McLoughlin, Watkins, Hawkshaw, O’Flanagan, N Carey. Subs: Murphy, Getty, Malseed, Torrans, Duke, Curran, McAuley.

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