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Five Tactical Tweaks Vera Pauw Should Consider As Ireland Eye Famous Result v Canada

Five Tactical Tweaks Vera Pauw Should Consider As Ireland Eye Famous Result v Canada
By Alanna Cunnane Updated
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In reality, it’s very unlikely we’ll see the Irish WNT alter in any shape or form for their next World Cup game, but were lightening to strike and pigs to fly, what are the possible changes Vera Pauw could make versus Canada?

The Dutch woman has been unwavering in her team selection and tends to back the lineup she favours at any given time relentlessly, which is surely unlikely to fluctuate on the World Cup stage. However, given the steadfast defensive showcase in the first half against Australia and the enlightening attacking potential shown in the second period, suggested adjustments continue to pop up from fans and pundits alike.

So from substitutions to style of play, here’s a breakdown of variations people are calling for that would modify the Irish WNT’s game ahead of their next clash on Wednesday.

Bring on Amber Barrett!

20 July 2023; Amber Barrett of Republic of Ireland before the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Group B match between Australia and Republic of Ireland at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Hampden hero Amber Barrett captured the nation’s applause and attention when she scored the goal to propel Ireland to their first ever Women’s World Cup, although her absence during the opener last Thursday left many questioning why she wasn’t included in the starting team, or if not then in the substitutes which came on.

No one’s particularly saying that Barrett couldn’t be a threat were she to come on for the Girls In Green, but what must be said is that it’d be rare if she did enter the fray in the first place under Pauw.

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Don’t forget that before the Zambia warm-up fixture, her spot on the plane to Oz itself was even in doubt following a difficult club season at Turbine Potsdam in which she only netted one goal. Before Zambia, she hadn't scored since that famous outing in Scotland back in October.

Against Zambia in Tallaght, she scored two goals, albeit the opposition were ranked 55 spots lower than Ireland in the rankings, and she left Pauw with little choice but to include her in the 23-woman squad.

Where the manager will continue to exercise her agency, however, is in the way she deploys the newly-signed Standard Liege player, who excels in running into open space as opposed to holding up the ball in the style current starting leader of the line Kyra Carusa does.

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With that said though, some would counter that an out and out forward would be a more preferred attacking option than route one balls into the box to defender Louise Quinn. With her last ditch opportunity failing to strike the back of the net in the closing stages versus the Matlidas, it’s hard to say that to be completely true either, further emphasising the fine margins of sport that could make a player either a World Cup hero or one left itching to get on from the bench.

Larkin and Quinn among the most plausible changes Vera Pauw could utilize

20 July 2023; Abbie Larkin of Republic of Ireland during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Group B match between Australia and Republic of Ireland at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Birmingham City’s Lucy Quinn and 18-year-old Shamrock Rovers star Abbie Larkin transformed the Australia match when they came on around the hour mark, and although the result didn’t reflect their impact the fan reaction just might have.

Alongside the switch to a four at the back in the last 20 minutes of the game with ‘big [Louise] Quinn’ up top, the duo epitomized a style of play that was unfearful in pushing on for an equalizer.

That unflinching state, however, is one only to be viewed in the Irish team after going a goal down, possibly marking both the WNT’s greatest strength and weakness all embroiled into one.

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The five at the back system ensures the Girls In Green are hard to beat, and with Denise O’Sullivan and Ruesha Littlejohn further covering that structure there is often little supply going forward in order to secure a siege at the back.

While they are supplemented, of course, by the engine of Marissa Sheva and the technical nous of Sinead Farrelly, Carusa is often left looking for the wide and full back options running on for too long and is forced to resort to going on her own instead, which isn’t always the most fruitful.

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Lucy Quinn and Abbie Larkin were allowed to throw such constraints to the wind, and so they are likely to feature again against Canada, with one major caveat however.

Don’t be surprised if they aren’t to be seen until the latter stages of the second half, as with all points vital in this group of death, Pauw won’t be taking any wild swings.

Move Payne from right back?

20 July 2023; Heather Payne of Republic of Ireland during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Group B match between Australia and Republic of Ireland at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

With captain extraordinaire Katie McCabe at left back and Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahey and Megan Connolly tight in the middle of the five, Heather Payne - who was formerly employed as a striker under Pauw - is a player teams look to target at right back.

That tactic was one evident in the Australia game and looks sure to be an area squads will prey on in future too, with Canada no exception.

Payne has pace to burn and is an undoubted asset in the 5-4-1 approach, although consistently she’s aided out of tight spots by Farrelly and Littlejohn and perhaps is a slight drawback the manager may look to swap.

There's also the throw- in factor, which would have everyone longing for the days of the Megan Campbell rocket, although she only falls victim in comparison, as would anyone.

Diane Caldwell, Chloe Mustaki and Aine O’Gorman would all be options, but given their varying preferred feet, and in some cases extensive experience but aging profile there is, as always, pluses and minuses to both.

Agg for Littlejohn?

19 July 2023; Lily Agg, left, and Sinead Farrelly during a Republic of Ireland training session at the Leichhardt Oval in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

In a similar vein to Farrelly, Littlejohn could mark one of the possible changes Vera Pauw makes to her side, for little other reason than her fitness.

With both players coming off the back of periods away from the game (although Littlejohn's was substantially shorter than Farrelly's), their skill and intensity remains top notch, but only for a certain period of time.

Both are often the first of the substitutions Pauw looks to make after halftime, but that variability is one she could avoid by replacing Littlejohn with Lily Agg right from the off.

Akin in their physical nature in the middle of the pitch, Agg also offers a heading potential up front, as could be seen during her vital goal vs Finland in the qualification process.

Unlocking O'Sullivan and McCabe the key?

4 July 2023; Manager Vera Pauw, centre, Katie McCabe, left, and Denise O'Sullivan during a Republic of Ireland women training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Looking at their stats alone it's pretty clear that O'Sullivan and McCabe are two of Ireland's most important players.

Going beyond that though, their intangible presence and leadership on the pitch makes them simply indispensable to Pauw's team, and because they are that good they often get caught up in spaces on the pitch and involved in other roles in a bid to drag the team along to victory.

With them lies the key to Ireland's success, and were the Girls In Green to find a way to free them up more and relinquish more shots at the opposition it would prove very beneficial, and perhaps even pave the way to the WNT's first share of the spoils or an entire three points at a World Cup.

They'll be hoping to achieve just that on Wednesday, 1pm Irish time, when they tackle Canada in Perth, and who knows, maybe lightening will strike twice!

SEE ALSO: In Irishtown Stadium, 1000+ People Saw Local Hero Abbie Larkin's Star Turn

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