Ireland suffers narrow defeat in historic Women’s World Cup debut

An expertly struck penalty from Steph Catley proved to be the winner for Australia, as Ireland kicked off its Women's World Cup campaign with a defeat.

The Republic of Ireland squad photo at their Women's World Cup debut.
Image: Twitter: @IrelandFootball

On Thursday, July 20, the Republic of Ireland made history by competing in its first-ever Women’s World Cup match. Playing in Sydney in front of a record-breaking crowd of 75,784, the Girls in Green suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of hosts Australia.

Perhaps the biggest shock of the fixture came in the hours prior when it was announced that Sam Kerr would miss the game due to a calf injury. Not only is Kerr Australia’s captain, but she is also the country’s all-time leading goalscorer and a huge asset to the team. Ireland, in contrast, had an entirely fit squad, despite Denise O’Sullivan picking up a knock in a friendly match against Colombia under a week ago.

There was nothing to split the sides in the first half, with Ireland very much on the defence and goal-scoring chances coming few and far between. It was stalemate until the 52nd minute, when Australia’s stand-in captain Steph Catley expertly converted from the penalty spot, after Marissa Sheva gave away a clumsy foul in the box.

Ireland kicked things up a gear for the remainder of the 90 minutes, with substitutes Abbie Larkin and Lucy Quinn injecting a spike of energy into the team. However, the Girls in Green couldn’t find an equaliser, and the game ended in defeat.


Although “very proud”, Ireland manager Vera Pauw stated, “It’s very disappointing. We said at half time this is a game that will be decided on one mistake, whether it’s them or us, and that’s what happened.”

She continued: “They have such a powerful team and it was difficult to play against them, but I think that we’ve done so well – they didn’t create a lot of chances… I think everybody is proud that we have shown we are part of the top nations and that we can only grow from this”


Captain and openly LGBTQ+ footballer Katie McCabe also weighed in, saying, “This is the top level now, we know if we make mistakes we’ll be punished at this level. But there’s absolutely lots of positives to take from it.”

Reflecting on the significance of the game, she added: “It’s absolutely amazing. There’s been so much talk of it all year and it’s finally come tonight and to walk out and see our fans and feel the support, have our friends and family here, we know there’s a whole nation behind us at home as well… yeah, it’s an amazing feeling.

“I hope we did them proud tonight. I know the result wasn’t what we expected and what we wanted, but we’ll be working hard to try get a result against Canada,” the skipper concluded.


The Republic of Ireland will continue its historic Women’s World Cup campaign on Wednesday, July 26, against reigning Olympic champions Canada, before playing their final group stage game against Nigeria on July 31. Depending on the results, they may then progress to the knockout rounds, commencing on August 5.

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