FAI still seeking World Cup warm-up opposition for Pauw’s Ireland

China match secured for Spain next month, but April and July dates remain unfilled

News that the Republic of Ireland has secured World Cup warm-up matches against China and Germany in Algeciras, Spain, next month comes as mere appetisers before a feast for Irish football in 2023.

Two more internationals, against the same higher-ranked nation, have been pencilled into the FAI schedule during the second warm-weather camp in April before a potential Aviva Stadium send-off in early July.

Nothing has been confirmed, but the chances of female soccer internationals being allowed to play at the Aviva Stadium, 96 years after the men first did, remains a possibility.

Smaller venues

A lingering worry is the ability of Katie McCabe’s team to draw a crowd to fill the 19,000 seats in the lower bowl on Lansdowne Road. Previous record attendances stall at 7,000 but that was in Tallaght stadium before they qualified for their first big tournament. Smaller venues in Dublin and Cork are also being considered.


Final decisions on the April and July international windows are expected soon, with England the dream opponent before departure to their World Cup base camp in Brisbane. The FA have no warm-ups listed after England face South American champions Brazil in the Finalissima at Wembley on April 6th.

The FAI’s scramble to secure friendlies is put down to qualification only being achieved via the momentous playoff win at Hampden Park last October, by which time England had arranged the visit of South Korea, Italy and Belgium for the Arnold Clark Cup over six days in February. The same goes for Australia, who host the Czech Republic, Spain and Jamaica next month.

In stark contrast, Vera Pauw’s squad have one full international against China at Estadio Nuevo Mirador, an hour southwest of Marbella on Wednesday, February 22nd at 1pm. The German game is set for the previous Friday but this is an uncapped fixture behind closed doors that will be split into three 30-minute periods.

“It is vital to our preparations for the World Cup that we make the most of every opportunity that we have together as a squad because we only have three international windows left before [the World Cup] starts in July,” said Pauw. “This training camp will be key to those preparations. China are a technically very good team who will be different from the type of teams we have come up against before. Playing against them gives us the chance to experience the pressure of international football against a highly-skilled opponent.”

Ideally, Ireland’s final warm-up match, against a local Brisbane club or another World Cup side can be arranged the week before their opening match against Australia in Sydney on July 20th.

Nothing in the history of Irish women’s sport can compare to this date with destiny at Stadium Australia, on the same grass Sonia O’Sullivan circled for her Olympic silver medal in 2000.

As it stands, the FAI are set to only receive 4 per cent (3,340) of the 83,500 tickets. Fifa has yet to confirm the upgrade from Sydney Football stadium to the Olympic amphitheatre as unprecedented demand for tickets is forcing a switch across town from the 42,500-seater rugby ground to the World Cup final venue.

Fifa were approached for clarification.

England’s kick-off times

Unlike English fans, at least the Irish who stay at home are guaranteed to see every game on RTÉ. The London Independent reports a bidding war, or lack thereof, has broken out between UK broadcasters and Fifa after meetings during the men’s tournament in Doha failed to circumnavigate a tender process that began last June.

The BBC and ITV are understandably disappointed with England’s kick-off times. The European champions’ first World Cup game kicks off on a Saturday at 9.30am with match two against Denmark at 7.30am on a Friday while world champions the USA received 7pm (east coast) kick-offs for their opening two matches.

Ireland got a better shake than England with a 10am start against Australia followed by 1pm against Canada and 11am against Nigeria in the last Group B tie. The World Cup final on August 20th kicks off at 9am Irish time.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent