Women’s World Cup 2023: Ireland to face Sweden and Finland
Vera Pauw’s side will also come up against Slovakia who they beat in the last campaign
Ireland manager Vera Pauw will lead the team once again in qualifying. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
“Not bad,” said a content enough Vera Pauw after the Republic of Ireland were drawn in a group with Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Georgia for their 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign, the coach targeting the runners-up spot in the group which would earn a place in the play-offs for the tournament which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
While that might have smacked of a lack of ambition, Pauw insisted that she was simply being realistic about Ireland’s chances of topping a group that contains Sweden, the fifth ranked nation in the world who beat England to finish third at the last World Cup.
“Sweden is a very, very strong team, they have qualified for the Olympics, so they’re one of the best three in Europe because only three go from Europe, so that shows it all,” she said. “But our aim should be getting the runner-up position, there is some perspective there.”
While Finland, the group’s second seeds who, at 24, are ranked 10 places above the Republic, had a hugely impressive Euro 2022 qualifying campaigning, topping a group that contained Portugal and Scotland by winning seven and drawing one of their eight games, Pauw believes the Republic are capable of beating them to the runners-up spot.
“Finland are strong, but they are not unbeatable, let’s say it like that,” she said. “They are rising, but so are we. We also have Slovakia and Georgia, teams that are ranked below us, so we should be able to get our points there. It’s tough, especially the top seeds, but Finland .... we’ll see what we can do. We will be prepared again, we’ll go for it.”
Once again, the Republic share a group with Slovakia, having beaten them home and away in their last World Cup qualifying campaign, while Georgia, ranked at 126 in the world, are the group’s rank outsiders.
The 2023 version of the World Cup will feature 32 nations, having been expanded from 24, with the winners of each of the nine European qualifying groups sealing a spot, the runners-up entering the play-offs.
Northern Ireland, who qualified for Euro 2022 earlier this month, the first time they secured a spot in a major tournament, were drawn with England, Austria, North Macedonia, Latvia and Luxembourg. The qualifying campaign begins in September.
Group A: Sweden, Finland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Georgia
Group B: Spain, Scotland, Ukraine, Hungary, Faroe Islands
Group C: Netherlands, Iceland, Czech Republic, Belarus, Cyprus
Group D: England, Austria, Northern Ireland, North Macedonia, Latvia, Luxembourg
Group E: Denmark, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Azerbaijan, Malta, Montenegro
Group F: Norway, Belgium, Poland, Albania, Kosovo, Armenia
Group G: Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Croatia, Moldova, Lithuania
Group H: Germany, Portugal, Serbia, Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria