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Alfie Wylie is so proud of Northern Ireland girls but classy France too powerful

Northern Ireland 0 France 4

By Emma Patterson

France got off to the perfect start in their Women's International Cup campaign - being used as a warm-up for next year's Uefa Women's Under-19 Championships - with a 4-0 victory over a plucky Northern Ireland side at the Ballymena Showgrounds last night.

Gilles Eyquem's side started brightly and their experience shone through in the opening minutes with Northern Ireland doing well to soak up the early pressure.

France pressed in the early stages, but 17-year-old Newry City keeper Caoimhe Callaghan made a series of excellent saves to deny French captain Elisa De Almeida.

However, France managed to break Northern Ireland's resolve in the ninth minute when a deep cross from Julie Thibaud curled into the hosts' net.

Northern Ireland were forced to batten down the hatches while the technically excellent French side were seemingly always capable of finding space.

Callaghan and her backline showed unwavering determination to keep themselves in contention, but lapses in concentration saw the French exert their dominance and score two goals in quick succession.

Elise Bonet doubled the lead on 38 minutes, a pinpoint pass setting up her neat finish into the bottom corner, and it was three at the break with Ninon Blanchard keeping her composure one on one with Callaghan.

Alfie Wylie's side came out at the start of the second half with good intent, making a concentrated effort to hold possession and press higher, but it wasn't enough to trouble the French, with Doriane Pau, De Almeida and Emelyne Laurent going close to making it four.

The French broke Northern Ireland's resilience once more in the second minute of injury-time when Laurent's cracking strike made it four.

It was a scoreline to forget for the girls in green and white; they showed good defensive discipline for the majority of the game, but it wasn't enough to stop a classy French side.

Wylie fielded a particularly young team, with several of the starting XI having just turned 16, but French experience, speed and prowess proved too much.

Wylie said: "We were up against the European Champions, it's never going to be easy but we showed we're well organised and well disciplined. Most people would have expected a heavier defeat, but our time is next August."

Northern Ireland continue their campaign against England tomorrow at Shamrock Park, before finishing off against USA at Windsor Park on Sunday.

Northern Ireland: Callaghan, Moore, Robson, McMaster (C), Burns, Hamilton, Orr (Beggs 75), Bassett, Downey (Crawford 60), White, Beattie (Cochrane 75). Subs not used: McCaughtry, McGinn, Magee, Olive, Coppel, Currie

France: Damman, Dechilly, Dijon, Prette, De Almeida (C), Laurent, Thibaud (Pau 45), Ollivier (Closset 67), Bonet (Karadjov 66), Blanchard (Bodain 66), Boutaleb. Subs not used: Pecharman, Lefevre, Piga

Earlier, England overcame a physical United States side to claim a 2-1 victory in the friendly tournament's opener.

Rinsola Babajide's strike was countered by Mireya Grey's scramble over the line five minutes after the break, before sub Charlie Wellings' bullet finish from 25 yards with 15 minutes left restored England's lead.

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