Vera Pauw insists ‘no excuses’ for chant as Ireland face tough World Cup draw | Republic of Ireland women’s football team

The Republic of Ireland manager, Vera Pauw, says it is right Uefa has opened an investigation after her players were filmed singing a pro-IRA songafter their qualification for their first World Cup.

After being drawn in a treacherous group with Canada, Australia and Nigeria for the 2023 tournament, Pauw hopes the focus can soon turn to football and the significant inroads made by the country’s governing body to address gender inequality.

Ireland’s first major finals berth became mired in controversy last week when the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) apologised for a video that showed the team celebrating their qualifying playoff win over Scotland in their Hampden Park dressing room. In the clip, player are seen singing “Ooh ah, up the ’RA” – words associated with support for the Irish Republican Army.

“We did something wrong,” the Dutch manager said. “As soon as you hurt one person, you’ve done something wrong. But the players didn’t mean anything. That’s not an excuse, but our players are going out always to the schools, to kids, to clubs. We are always there to be a role model for others.

“Such a shame that this happened because nobody meant anything with it. I hope that we go into football now,. There is a Uefa investigation, which is correct because there was a claim in it, and we need to face what’s coming out.

“But let me be clear: there’s no excuses and I hope that we’ve learned from it that you can sing the song your team is embracing, but you have to know your background.”

Republic of Ireland players celebrate their playoff victory at Hampden Park.
Republic of Ireland players celebrate their playoff victory at Hampden Park. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Images

Ireland are ranked 24th in the world and will make their tournament bow in the spotlight, as they face co-hosts Australia in Sydney on the opening day, 20 July. They beat the Matildas 3-2 in Dublin last year in what Pauw called “a turning point” that instilled “real belief that we can do something and grow”.

“We are just going to live to the full and embrace it,” she said at the draw in Auckland on Saturday. “The more pressure, the better. It’s about a task that you have to execute, it’s not about how many people are in the stands. The bigger the stage, the better, because this is what we dreamed for.”

Quick Guide

Women’s World Cup 2023 draw


Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland

Group B: Australia, Ireland, Nigeria, Canada

Group C: Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan

Group D: England, Playoff B winner*, Denmark, China

Group E: United States, Vietnam, Netherlands, Playoff A winner*

Group F: France, Jamaica, Brazil, Playoff C winner*

Group G: Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina

Group H: Germany, Morocco, Colombia, South Korea

* The 10-team inter-confederation playoffs will take place in New Zealand from 18-23 February next year.
Playoff A: Cameroon/Thailand v Portugal
Playoff B: Senegal/Haiti v Chile
Playoff C: Taiwan/Paraguay v PNG/Panama

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The women’s game has grown exponentially in Ireland since 2017, when the national team went on strike after accusing the FAI of failing to provide adequate support, including being forced to get changed in public toilets on the way to matches and sharing tracksuits with youth-team squads. After mediation, they were granted improved earnings and resources.

“It was a turning point,” Pauw said. “But it’s not only the players who demanded it and stood their ground, the FAI has responded in a way that no other associations have ever done. We have the best facilities, the same hotels as the men have, we travel in the charter [flight].

“We had earlier equal pay than many countries including the Netherlands, who are only are getting it now and they’re [2017] European champions and World Cup finalists.

“It’s turned good with the force of so many people. Not only the squad and the staff, but also the management and the press and the whole support of the nation. That togetherness is the strength of this team. It’s not any more us against others, but it’s all together and everybody pushes us to higher heights.”

Ireland apologise for singing pro-IRA song after reaching Women’s World Cup | Republic of Ireland women’s football team

The Football Association of Ireland has apologised after a video emerged on social media of Ireland’s women singing a song with a pro-IRA chorus after qualifying for the World Cup on Tuesday.

The clip showed the team celebrating in their Hampden Park dressing room after their 1-0 victory over Scotland, singing “Ooh ah, up the ’RA” – words associated with support for the Irish Republican Army. It comes from a song, Celtic Symphony by the Wolfe Tones, released in 1987 for the centennial of Celtic football club.

In a statement the FAI said: “The Football Association of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland women’s national team manager Vera Pauw apologise for any offence caused by a song sung by players in the Ireland dressing room after the Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifying playoff win over Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.”

Pauw said: “We apologise from the bottom of our hearts to anyone who has been offended by the content of the post-match celebrations after we had just qualified for the World Cup.

“We will review this with the players and remind them of their responsibilities in this regard. I have spoken with players this morning and we are sorry collectively for any hurt caused, there can be no excuse for that.”

The veteran player Áine O’Gorman reiterated the apology, telling RTÉ Sport: “We sang 100 songs last night and that was the one that went out. We would just like to apologise to anyone who was offended.”

The apology came after Ireland’s stunning victory over Scotland, with a goal 18 minutes from time by Amber Barrett. Afterwards she dedicated her goal to the 10 victims of the Creeslough tragedy, saying: “My grandparents are born and bred there. I spend my holidays there with my uncle. I know people who died in the tragedy, who were affected by it, who were first on the scene.

“I’m dedicating this result and the goal to the 10 beautiful souls who unfortunately perished, for all their families. I know they touched their lives and they have touched ours. This is for Cresslough. This is for Donegal.”

The apology was welcomed by the Ulster Unionist party leader, Doug Beattie. “They have let themselves down,” he said. “Truly disgraceful. Apology welcome. I was moved by the Creeslough dedication. We cannot have that. We cannot glorify the actions of a terrorist group.”

Ireland delight as Amber Barrett sends them to World Cup amid Scotland woe | Women’s World Cup 2023

Amber Barrett scored surely the most important goal in the history of women’s football in the Republic of Ireland, to secure Vera Pauw’s impressive side a ticket to their first major tournament.

Barrett’s stellar second‑half finish booked Ireland an unexpected flight to Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup finals next summer, leaving Scotland – and Caroline Weir especially – reflecting on what might have been.

On as a substitute, Barrett – a trainee schoolteacher turned professional striker for Germany’s Turbine Potsdam – secured a major upset as the favourites never recovered from Weir’s first‑half penalty miss and ended up losing this European playoff final at a somewhat stunned Hampden Park.

“I can’t believe it,” an overjoyed Pauw said. “Amber’s first touch made the game; I just can’t believe it. How is this possible for us?”

The home fans should have known better than to underestimate Pauw. The 59-year-old Dutchwoman managed Scotland from 1998 to 2004, exceeding the call of duty to help ensure women’s football started to be taken seriously north of Hadrian’s Wall. Part of her legacy could be seen on Tuesday night in the 10,708 crowd, a record attendance for a competitive Scotland women’s game.

Relishing this return to her former Hampden habitat, Pauw showed off all the streetwise experience collected during subsequent postings in charge of the Netherlands, Russia, South Africa and Houston Dash to outwit Scotland’s Spanish coach, Pedro Martínez Losa. Formerly in charge of Arsenal, Martínez Losa watched horrified as Erin Cuthbert and Claire Emslie were among key home players negated by Pauw’s well‑structured back five.

Martínez Losa’s pre-match ambition of “inspiring a generation” of young Scottish footballers by guiding his side to a second successive World Cup encountered an early setback when, having secured a penalty for handball against Niamh Fahey, Weir saw her spot‑kick brilliantly parried clear by Courtney Brosnan.

“Courtney’s penalty save wasn’t luck,” Pauw said. “We knew where it was going. Preparation is everything and we were ready for every scenario. We trained for every situation.”

Pauw’s goalkeeper was outstanding throughout but Weir, whose bright interchange with Fiona Brown had landed Fahey in trouble, looked extremely disappointed not to have evaded Brosnan’s reach.

Megan Campbell’s long throws frequently fazed Scotland and they had reason for relief when one hurled in with particular venom flew straight into the back of the net. With no player having touched it en route it was automatically disallowed but the home defence must have been mightily relieved Ireland’s lurking Lily Agg did not manage to capitalise on apparently crossed wires between their goalkeeper Lee Gibson and Sophie Howard.

Martínez Losa had another fright when Áine O’Gorman subsequently connected with Katie McCabe’s cross and directed a header wastefully wide from five yards. Maybe it was Scottish nerves, the usually creative Cuthbert’s unusually defensive midfield role or perhaps simply a reflection of Ireland’s counter-attacking progress under Pauw but half‑time could not come soon enough for a visibly stressed Scotland manager.

Pauw, though, probably spent the break ruing Irish ill luck after her side concluded the opening 45 minutes by conjuring a treble chance which, in extremely quick succession, saw Howard twice clear the ball off the line and Gibson save smartly as Agg, Denise O’Sullivan and Fahey all came mighty close to scoring.

Although Scotland raised their game significantly at the start of the second half such superiority proved thoroughly deceptive, turning academic as Barrett silenced Hampden.

Not for the first time Scotland were guilty of a slapdash loss of possession and, accelerating on to O’Sullivan’s inch-perfect through-ball courtesy of the surest of first touches, a fast‑breaking Barrett advanced with incision and intelligence, eluding the onrushing Gibson courtesy of a coolly accomplished right-foot finish.

As several Scotland players greeted the final whistle with tears, their manager said sorry to his supporters. “I’m very disappointed – for the girls and for the whole nation,” said Martínez Losa, whose side enjoyed more than 70% of the possession but failed to maximise it. “We wanted to qualify for the World Cup so badly I apologise to the fans. The opposition executed their gameplan well – and we didn’t get the little details right.”

Barrett dedicated her historic goal to the 10 victims of the Creeslough tragedy. “My grandparents are born and bred there,” explained the Donegal native. “I spend my holidays there with my uncle. I know people who died in the tragedy, who were affected by it, who were first on the scene.

“I’m dedicating this result and the goal to the 10 beautiful souls who unfortunately perished, for all their families. I know they touched their lives and they have touched ours. This is for Cresslough. This is for Donegal.”

Sophie Ingle calls on Wales to believe they can achieve World Cup dream | Women’s World Cup 2023

Sophie Ingle says Wales’s players “have to believe that we can get a result” against Switzerland in their World Cup playoff on Tuesday night.

Wales travel to Switzerland bidding to book their place in next year’s finals in Australia and New Zealand having beaten Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in Cardiff last Thursday. Victory will not automatically seal a World Cup spot, however, with Scotland hosting the Republic of Ireland and Portugal meeting Iceland and only two of the winning teams qualifying directly on the basis of their qualification records. The country that misses out will go into an inter-confederation playoff in February.

“It is complicated, but it’s competitive,” the Wales manager, Gemma Grainger, said. “It keeps you on your toes. These games are knockout games. The only other way you play knockout games is in tournaments. So what a great experience for us to have to think about the possibility of extra-time, to have to think about the possibility of penalties. Knowing that we go through that as a team is such a thing for us to do.”

The Chelsea midfielder Ingle said: “It’s like another cup final. It’s probably our 12th cup final of this campaign. We’ve had a lot of games and at this level they’re all as important as the next. We’ve been on a journey, but we want to go one better and get the win.”

The Scotland manager, Pedro Martínez Losa, admitted that his side must “have a belief in what we are doing” ahead of their game with the Republic of Ireland at Hampden Park, where it is expected the women’s team will break its attendance record.

“We are in the best place that we could be,” Martínez Losa said. “It’s one opportunity potentially every four years. We just prepare for a final. We prepared for one final and now we are preparing for another.

It’s an incredible opportunity to be involved and play in a World Cup and inspire a generation of players and make the game better.”

Scotland finished runners-up in Group B, behind Spain, and Wales finished runners-up in Group I, behind France, to earn their places in the playoffs. Martínez Losa’s side secured a 1-0 win in extra-time against the Euro 2022 quarter-finalists Austria to set up the second-round match with the Republic of Ireland, while Wales also needed extra-time to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina and secure the tie with Switzerland.