Belfast Telegraph

Wylie relishing an all-Ireland duel in World Cup qualifiers

 

By Stuart McKinley

Alfie Wylie has described the Women's World Cup qualifying draw as "brilliant" after Northern Ireland were paired with the Republic of Ireland and two of the top 12 teams in the Fifa rankings.

There has never been a north v south meeting at senior level in the women's game, but now there will be two in 18 months.

And boss Wylie is hoping that the games will capture the imagination of fans to such an extent that they will take a large travelling support when the away all-Ireland battle comes around.

The Republic team recently hit the headlines when they threatened to go on strike over their treatment by the Football Association of Ireland.

The Northern Ireland girls will also come up against Norway, the Netherlands and Slovakia in what is expected to be a tough group, but Wylie is relishing the challenge, which will start with the first games in September.

"Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will be the games to target and we haven't faced them in a competitive qualifier in my time," said Wylie.

"It's a brilliant time to be playing them as they are flying at the minute.

"It will be great to have a game close by for fans to also come and support us away from home."

Northern Ireland's most famous victory came against Norway in the 2013 European Championship qualifying campaign, and it wasn't a fluke either, winning that game 3-1.

The Norwegians are former World and Olympic champions and they have also won the European Championships twice.

By the time the World Cup campaign comes around both Norway and the Netherlands will have played in this summer's European Championships and that shows the size of the task facing Wylie's girls.

It has always been that way though, but both recent history and results further back will give Wylie hope, having run Italy close in both games in the recent Euro 2017 qualifiers.

"My greatest success as the women's coach was against Norway when we beat them 3-1 at Mourneview Park," said Wylie.

"Every point we get will be a bonus as everyone will expect to beat us, but the pressure will be on our opponents and the challenge for us is to see if we can beat them.

"They are going to be very interesting matches.

"At the moment we are optimistic that we can get points and secure at least two victories, if not more."

GROUP 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

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