Jessica Ziu: ‘I knew I had them for speed, and probably skill too’

Shels star impresses on first national start as her and McCabe offer credible wide options

Jessica Ziu impressed at right wingback on her first Ireland start. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Jessica Ziu impressed at right wingback on her first Ireland start. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The sight of Katie McCabe linking up with Denise O’Sullivan to create a chance at goal does not get old. Ireland’s third goal, scored by Lucy Quinn, in their record win over Georgia on Tuesday night was probably the best of the lot; O’Sullivan with a delicate flick followed by a McCabe pinpoint cross for Quinn to bury.

In next year’s crucial qualifying ties against Finland, Sweden and Slovakia, Ireland’s key duo will probably bear the brunt of the playmaking duties. With that in mind, what was arguably the most encouraging part of the Georgia win was seeing Jessica Ziu sharing plenty of the creative responsibility on the opposite flank; and with plenty of success to boot.

On the night of her first Ireland start, the Shelbourne player lined up opposite McCabe at right wingback. Caveats about the standard of opposition apply, especially given how torrid a night Georgia leftback Maiko Bebia had - it doesn’t get much worse than an own goal and a red card - but Ziu’s willingness to drive relentlessly at the defence was nonetheless refreshing.

Ziu’s confidence is matched only by her honesty. She knows exactly what her skillset is and how that dictates her role in the team, while also aware of an improvement that can be made going forward on her final ball.

“With Shels that’s what I do, I drive at players” explains Ziu after playing her part in not an insignificant number of goals during the 11-0 drubbing.

“A lot of people say I have a low centre of gravity so that’s what I like to do. At half-time Vera (Pauw) just said to me to try and get more crosses in since there was a lot coming in from the left side.

“A few of them weren’t the best but I kept going, kept on dribbling at them, won a few free kicks.

“That’s one reason why Vera put me right wingback because I’m probably a bit more attacking than the other two girls who play there.

“I just ran at the girls, I knew I had them for speed and probably skill too.”

As for her skipper on the opposite flank, you would think McCabe might be delighted to see some of the creative pressure being taken up elsewhere.

Silly question; McCabe doesn’t do pressure:

“There’s no pressure on me in terms of the responsibilities I have. I know what I have to do as a captain and as a player in my role.

“(Ziu was) absolutely brilliant tonight in those one v ones, linking up with Lucy Quinn and Niamh Fahey on that side, it was great to have that. Brilliant performance from her tonight and it shows the level of quality we have coming through the youth system. There’ll be plenty more to come.”

Her delight at the success of others clearly takes nothing away from her desire to dictate play, something which she certainly did in a two-goal, multi-assist player of the match display.

McCabe even had time to think of goal difference equations in a performance that had little sympathy for the plight of Teona Sukhashvili in the Georgia goal.

“Our mentality at half-time was to keep going and not take our foot off the gas. Goal difference, you never know what can happen at the end of the campaign so for us (it was important) to maintain that and even turn it up a notch again, even some of the subs that came on maintained that intensity until the last few minutes of the game.

“It’s ruthless at this level. It’s tough when we play against the top ranked tames in the world. It’s a relentless game and you need to be disciplined in how you defend and you need to have that stroke of luck when you’re going forward.”

It was a statement win that shows how hungry this squad was when it came to banishing Thursday’s frustrating draw.

Back to the caveats. Georgia are certainly minnows, having conceded nine goals across three games so far this campaign. That being said, Ireland bettered that in just one night.

McCabe though isn’t too fussed about what Finland et al think of the result:

“Whatever they want to think of it they can think of it, we just concentrate on ourselves. We came into this game knowing we needed three points out of it.

“It was a must win, and our job was to make sure we finished this year in second place, which we did.”

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