The next Women’s World Cup will take place in Canada in July, 2015. If Sue Ronan’s Irish team are to qualify it will be a task as onerous as what their male counterparts face at present. Today’s draw in Switzerland, attended by Ronan, saw her side drawn in a qualifying group containing Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia.
Germany are currently ranked second in the world and first in Europe. Russia’s pedigree is not as daunting, with not a huge chasm in European or World rankings with Ireland. Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia will offer lesser known and possibly precarious sojourns.
The Group 1 matches will be played just within the confines of September 2013 and September 2014. All seven group winners will automatically qualify and the remaining European berth will be fought out between the four best runners up between October 25th and November 27th, 2014. These play offs in itself will be difficult to progress from, but could prove Ireland’s best chance.
Ireland open their campaign in September when they welcome Slovakia in a game they will hope to generate three points from and a sound footing in the group. This will be the first meeting of the two countries at this level. Four days later the Irish will travel to Croatia, who they faced previously in the qualifying campaign for the 2005 European Championships, earning a scoreless draw away and winning emphatically 8-1 at home.
October will then see Ireland travel to Slovenia. If a solid start has been made by this juncture, the biggest test will come on April 5th when Germany travel to Ireland followed by Russia a month later. These two pivotal games could well determine the viability of a summer trip to Canada in 2015.
Ireland will be buoyed by some impressive performances in last months Cyprus Cup which included back to back victories over Northern Ireland in a 5-1 rout, followed by a 2-0 victory over South Africa. Midfielder Denise O’Sullivan impressed throughout the tournament, the Cork Women’s player has been impressive consistently for Ireland since her debut in September 2011 when she scored twice in the Euro 2013 qualifier away to Wales.
Ireland have never qualified for a World Cup or a European Championships and will be hopeful under Ronans stewardship and the captaincy of Arsenals Emma Byrne that they can reach their first major championships. The qualifying campaign will be hugely testing and this time twelve months, the Irish will hope to still be in the thick of it.