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5 Ireland Players That Boosted Their World Cup Prospects In The Win Over Zambia

5 Ireland Players That Boosted Their World Cup Prospects In The Win Over Zambia
By Gary Connaughton Updated
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Gary Connaughton reporting from Tallaght Stadium

Ireland 3-2 Zambia

In Ireland's first home game in nine months, they thrilled the crowd with some impressive football on their way to a 3-2 victory over Zambia at Tallaght Stadium.

With only two friendly games to go before the World Cup squad in announced, some fringe members of the panel were looking to cement their place on the plane to Australia this evening. For those who were all but certainly to be included in the final 23-player list, they would be hoping that a good performance tonight improved their chances of selection for the game against Australia on July 20th.

Some of them did just that.

While Ireland's performance was mixed in the first half, they improved greatly after the interval and completely took control of the game. In end, two goals from Amber Barrett and another from Claire O'Riordan were enough to hand Vera Pauw's side the victory.

Courtney Brosnan was arguably the standout performer on the night, but considering she already has that no.1 position locked down, here are five players who improved their own outlook ahead of the World Cup on the back of tonight's game.


Five Ireland players that impressed against Zambia

Leanne Kiernan

The Liverpool striker endured a very difficult season at club level. Having suffered a serious ankle injury on the opening day of the WSL campaign, she would miss eight months of action and did not make her return until the final round of games. Of course, this meant she also missed Ireland's World Cup play-off against Scotland and recent friendlies against the likes of China, Morocco, and the USA.

Making her first international appearance since September tonight, she would have been hoping to prove her fitness ahead of the tournament by putting in a good performance.

She almost scored inside the first couple of minutes, only for her effort to drift just wide from an Izzy Atkinson cross. Kiernan was Ireland's biggest attacking threat throughout the first half. She continually made dangerous runs in behind, although did struggle to stay onside at times.


The Cavan native did display signs of rust on occasion, but she did enough during her 45 minutes on the pitch to show her injury issues are behind her.


Ruesha Littlejohn

Having had her own injury issues over the last 12 months or so, Ruesha Littlejohn will be using the games against Zambia, France, and Colombia to build her fitness and look to nail down her place in the team ahead of the tournament.


She did her chances no harm tonight.

Littlejohn provided some much needed calmness in possession for Ireland, especially when the Zambians attempted to press the ball high up the pitch. Acting as the anchor in midfield, she performed well in the first half before coming off at halftime.

She will now be looking to steadily build her fitness over the next month or so as she eyes a start against Australia.



Amber Barrett

Amber Barrett has made it clear how desperate she is to earn a spot on the plane to Australia, with their no shortage of competition for that striker spot.

She probably won't have to worry about that anymore.


Within five minutes of coming on at halftime, she brilliantly converted from the spot to get Ireland back on level terms.

The Donegal woman provided Ireland with the focal point up front that they had been lacking at times in the first half, with her physicality also causing some issues for Zambia in and around the penalty area.

Her linkup play was excellent, rarely wasting possession and continually finding teammates with layoffs after receiving the ball with her back to goal.


She took her second goal absolutely brilliantly, expertly chipping the ball over the Zambian goalkeeper to open up a two-goal lead.

Barrett was deservedly named as player of the match for her efforts.


Heather Payne

Payne has played in a number of different positions under Vera Pauw, although she now seems to have made that right wingback spot her own. Having started both games in the USA in that position, she impressive once again tonight.

Her running ability is a real asset down the right flank, while her defensive instincts are strong for someone you would often associate with playing a bit further up the pitch.

Payne looked dangerous whenever she got near the opposition and could have had a couple of good scoring opportunities had the ball bounced her way.

It's difficult to see anyone ousting her from this spot before the tournament.


Abbie Larkin

At 18-years old, Abbie Larkin continues to make serious strides every time she pulls on the green (or in this case white) jersey.

She showed some magnificent touches at times, ones that often set Ireland away when attempting to play the ball through the middle third. The Shamrock Rovers player was the one that took initiative and attempted to drift into dangerous positions in the final third.

It was her strike on goal that gave Ireland their penalty early in the second half which Amber Barrett tucked away. She was one of Ireland's best players during her hour or so on the pitch, with a spot on the plane surely coming her way at this point.

SEE ALSO: Vera Pauw - ‘I’m Very Happy In Ireland, I Want To Stay’

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