Belfast Telegraph

Women's World Cup Qualifier: Three and easy for Furness as Northern Ireland beat Croatia

Northern Ireland 3 Croatia 1: Goalscoring sensation Rachel Furness showed Northern Ireland’s mens’ team how to do it last night as her superb hat-trick shattered Croatia at the Oval.

The girl from the north east of England is today the toast of Northern Irish football after she spearheaded a famous 3-1 victory for Alfie Wylie’s side, signing off an impressive World Cup qualifying campaign in style.

Nigel Worthington’s team haven’t scored since September last year, but Furness had no problem in finding the net for the women’s side last night, taking less than a minute to open the scoring, before going on to complete her treble in a sensational second half.

Northern Ireland were seen as the minnows of this group, with big-hitters France and Iceland drawn alongside them.

But it was against the other teams that they really impressed, taking two points off Serbia and finishing third in the group thanks to a second victory over Croatia.

“This was tremendous — really tremendous,” said Wylie. “We set ourselves a target and to finish third in this group is quite remarkable especially considering it was quite a young side. There were two 15-year-olds out there and another on the bench.”

He added: “They are all so proud to play for Northern Ireland irrespective of their backgrounds or where they have been brought up. Once they pull on that green shirt they are full of pride.

“They are a great bunch of girls.”

Furness will, of course, take all the plaudits for her performance but it was very much a team display from the girls.

The defence kept the Croatian ladies to just three attempts on goal, while in the middle of the park, tough-tackling also prevented goalkeeper Emma Higgins from having a busy night.

And of course it’s goals that wins games and it was the second that was most impressive, Furness catching the Croatians on the hop seconds after they had equalised in the 50th minute through skipper Iva Landeka.

And the win was wrapped up on 59 minutes when Furness converted Kimberley Turner’s corner.

Northern Ireland: Higgins, Caldwell, Bailie , Furness, Hutton, McKenna Turner, McFadden, Magill, Vance. Subs: Fagan, Armour, Corry, Hurst, Smyth, McDowell, McGuinness.

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