Northern Ireland Women V Austria



Welcome everyone to tonight’s FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier against Austria who come to Seaview on the back of a 5-0 win over Luxembourg in Wiener Neustadt. Kenny Shiels and his team can be immensely proud of their performance at Wembley at the weekend against the high-ranking Lionesses. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. The team will have learnt a lot but , as Kenny observed after the match, the fitness of England and the quality of their bench made the biggest difference. It was great to see Julie Nelson equalling Pat Jennings’ record of 119 caps and Kelsie Burrows making her first competitive start . For me Jackie Burns was magnificent in the Northern Ireland goal and, supported by a resolute defence, she played a big part in keeping England at bay for 64 minutes. Northern Ireland’s travelling support can always be relied upon to spur the team on. Saturday was no exception with 450 supporters being in fine and distinctive voice alongside circa 23,000 England fans. Even at 4-0 down, they still sung their hearts out and showed the England fans how it should be done. For that Kenny’s team will have been truly grateful and they showed it with their appreciation at the end of the game. It made it a great experience at the home of football . Tonight’s game sees the team rise to the challenge posed by a highly rated Austrian side. Whilst England have scored 22 goals without reply in European Qualifying Group D, Austria are hot on their heels after scoring 19 and only conceding one in three matches to date. Seaview is sold out for this qualifier, showing just how much the Northern Ireland senior women’s team have captured the imagination. Kenny Shiels will be keen to pit his technical nous, and that of his team, against the Austrians. Perhaps he will have planned something on the training ground which will bear fruit this evening. Whatever the case, the Green and White Army will spur the team on in typical fashion. Our fans will always find something to sing about but here’s hoping it’s a memorable night! CONRAD KIRKWOOD PRESIDENT IRISH FOOTBALL ASSOCIAT ION

We are delighted to welcome Austria to Seaview for this FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier. We know it’s going to be another incredibly tough game for us, especially following our exertions against England at the weekend. Austria, like England, have a 100% record so far in European Qualifying Group D and will no doubt want to keep it that way. Their latest success was a 5-0 victory home to Luxembourg on Friday night. However, as we showed at Wembley, we have a tremendous spirit and I believe we can upset our more illustrious opponents. We were underdogs going in to Saturday’s match and we will be underdogs again this evening. The Austria squad is mainly made up of players who operate in either the German or Austrian Bundesligas, which are both strong leagues. And their players are all full-time professionals. So we know it is going to be really tough, however if we get our gameplan right then I am confident we can get our World Cup qualification campaign back on track. We did incredibly well to keep England out for more than an hour on Saturday. Tactically we matched them. Taking one example, our plan was to keep prolific England striker Ellen White quiet and I thought Sarah McFadden and Julie Nelson were superb in doing that. I also feel we had them worried in the opening part of the second half when we were seeing more of the ball. That, of course, prompted them to make changes and ultimately their substitutes did the damage as our legs started to go. I believe their superior fitness told in the end. Of course, England thoroughly deserved their victory and the final score reflected how the game panned out. They should have scored a couple in the first half, while Jackie Burns pulled off a string of fine saves. Let’s not forget that Sarina Wiegman had several world class players to call upon, while we have many players who have to book time off work to play for their country. That’s not an excuse, it’s just reality. However, I believe in my players and I know they believe in themselves. They work their socks off for each other, showing great courage, commitment and desire every time they pull on that green jersey. I feel we will learn a lot from the Wembley experience, especially when it comes to coping with playing at big stadiums and in front of a big crowd. While I was proud of how the players defended, I was disappointed with some technical aspects of our game. I felt our ball retention was poor at times and I thought we could have used the ball better. We will be doing everything we can to put that right against Austria – in front of a full house at Seaview. A huge thank-you for your support. It means so much to the players, myself and the backroom staff. Hopefully we will be able to give you all - as well those watching the match at home online - something to cheer about. KENNY SHIELS NORTHERN IRELAND WOMEN MANAGER



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