Belfast Telegraph

The Netherlands are the greatest women's team ever to play in NI, says Alfie Wylie


By Steven Beacom

Alfie Wylie believes Northern Ireland will tonight host the best women's team that has ever played in this country.

It's quite a statement from the long-serving manager of the Northern Ireland women's side but Wylie believes World Cup Group Three opponents Netherlands are at a different level.

The Dutch won the European Championship last year and are determined to follow it up by winning next year's World Cup.

Due to a strong showing in qualifying from the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands are not yet assured of a place in the 2019 finals, so the Northern Ireland women are in for a tough test at Shamrock Park (7.30pm).

And Wylie's women will recall a challenging experience in Eindhoven back in April in the corresponding qualifier when the Dutch beat them 7-0 in front of 30,000 fans.

"I believe this Netherlands side is the best women's team to play in Northern Ireland. They are the reigning European champions and will believe they have a good chance of winning the World Cup," said Wylie.

Northern Ireland are fourth out of five in Group Three with three points, while the Netherlands top the table on 13. The Republic are second on 10.

Only the side that finishes first in the group are guaranteed a spot in the finals with the best four runners-up from the seven groups entering a play-off.

"The big incentive for our team is that it is a chance on home ground to take on some of the best players in the world," said Wylie.

"That is a fantastic challenge for our players who will get an insight into how good they have to be to make it in today's professional game.

"I'm well aware how difficult it is going to be. We have one full-time pro and they have all full-time pros who are stars across Europe.

"It will be extremely tough for our girls but we should see it as a challenge and give it our best shot."

Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan added: "We have been working really hard ahead of the match and will have a game plan that we'll aim to stick to.

"The last match was tough against them but we are at home this time and will look to put in a strong performance."

N Ireland vs Netherlands

Women's World Cup qualifier

Shamrock Park, Tonight, 7.30pm

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