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Vera Pauw salutes her Ireland heroes as World Cup moves a step closer

A 1-0 win over Finland, thanks to Lily Agg’s second half goal, has sent the Girls in Green into the play-offs

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw and Lily Agg of Republic of Ireland celebrate after the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and Finland at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Seán O'

Vera Pauw has described her pride in the Ireland squad that is on the brink of history as they bid to take the next step on the road to the World Cup in New Zealand.

A 1-0 win over Finland, thanks to Lily Agg’s second half goal, has sent the Girls in Green into the play-offs and Pauw was almost lost for words at the achievement.

“The feeling deep inside the squad was so close. With the fans, it’s amazing,” she said.

"All the people at home, all the watch parties and everybody supporting us. Everywhere we go everyone is so warm. I have no words.

"We are not there. We need to beat Slovakia to have the chance to skip the first round. So we will prepare as seriously as we did for this. Let's enjoy and celebrate today, but not party.

“We are not there yet. We are halfway but this is such a stepping stone towards the World Cup.

"It’s the first time, with a crowd like this, to achieve a moment like that. I am so incredibly proud of this team. They are so special.

“They (Finland) came out differently than we thought. Their number 20 and four were behind one another in the build up. It took a long time for us to organise because they were so guarded infront of defence.

“At this moment, usually I can analyse, but I just have no words.

“Let’s see if we can take the easy route. Thank you so much, everybody at home for all your support. We feel it from deep down inside. Thank you so much, it’s really made a difference."

Captain Katie McCabe added: “I have no words. I’m absolutely speechless. We didn't play particularly well tonight, but we couldn't care less. We got the three points and that was the main thing, to get the play-off to the World Cup.

“Before the campaign we played a lot of higher ranked opposition to try to prepare us for these high-stress game situations.

"I think we showed now, we beat Finland twice and got the draw away to Sweden. We want to compete with these big nations to make sure we’re at major tournaments going forward.

“We knew they’d come at us and put a lot of pressure on us. It was about soaking it up and hitting them on the break. It was the set-piece then, and we got the goal, Lily Agg with an unbelievable finish.

“They deserve this. There's been so many people before, Emma Byrne, Yvvone Tracy, Ciara Grant, everybody who paved the way for us to be in the position we are in now.

"To have Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahy, Aine O’Gorman, Steph Roche, honestly I could keep going. To be able to get the play-off for them, to inspire the next generation of women’s footballers is an absolute dream.

“We’ll be heading to Slovakia looking to get the three points. We were disappointed with our performance when we played them at home. We’ll enjoy tonight, recover and full preparation for Tuesday and Slovakia.”

Goalscoring hero Agg said: “On the goal - It was surreal, I took a clattering, but I put my head on it, and it was unbelievable.

“It was tough, it was really hard. The girls worked really hard and everyone gave their absolute all.

"They deserve it so much, the staff and players. I’m so grateful to be a part of it. What a night. Everyone is absolutely buzzing. Vera said no partying, but we’ll see about that.

"I’m dreaming honestly. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us.

“It's everyone's dream (to get to a World Cup). We’re going to do everything we can to get there, we can’t wait.”

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