Vera Pauw pleased with Ireland fight in opening World Cup loss to Australia

By Sports Desk July 20, 2023

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw credited her side’s resilience but lauded Australia’s attacking threats despite the absence of Sam Kerr after their 1-0 defeat to the joint-hosts in the Women’s World Cup.

Steph Catley’s 52nd-minute penalty was enough for the Matildas to overcome a dogged Ireland and get them off to the perfect start in Group B.

The hosts were without captain Kerr, with the Chelsea striker set to miss the next two matches of her home World Cup with a calf injury.

Pauw praised her team’s reaction to going a goal down and their overall performance despite defeat.

“It was impossible to switch play in the first half because they (Australia) did really well but in the second half we found solutions and we made changes to make sure we had control in those areas,” Pauw said.

“We had more opportunism in our play because we needed to score and I think that worked out really well. Abbie (Larkin) and Lucy (Quinn) were fantastic when they came on.

“Sam Kerr is of course one of, if not the top striker in the world so the fact that she did not play was a surprise for us but Australia have so many fast and attacking players that our game plan did not change because of that.

“We had prepared for that (top attacking players) and we had taken all their intentions out to get beyond our defensive line, they were not there once and that’s a huge compliment for our team as that’s what they were aiming for.”

Tony Gustavsson credited Kerr’s leadership off the pitch.

The Matildas manager admitted he did not want Ireland to learn the news of her injury prior to Thursday’s fixture.

“She (Kerr) means a lot for us emotionally, spiritually and with that team spirit for sure and Steph (Catley) as a vice captain, the way those two lead this team is amazing,” Gustavsson said.

“Sam is a massive part of Ireland’s game plan and we didn’t want to give that away in advance but once we come to the stadium we didn’t play any type of mind games, we were honest with the team sheet but we wanted to wait to the last second to not give away too much in tournament football.

“I ask for some understanding with that, I hope it’s OK. It’s obviously devastating for us and the players.”

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