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Ireland Move One Step Closer To World Cup Play-Off Spot After Brilliant Sweden Draw

Ireland Move One Step Closer To World Cup Play-Off Spot After Brilliant Sweden Draw
By Gary Connaughton

While they will come away a bit disappointed not to secure all three points, an Ireland team drawing away from home against FIFA's no. 2 ranked in a World Cup qualifier is an incredible result.

It was tough going at times, but the Irish were certainly full value for their 1-1 draw in Gothenburg as they moved a step closer to securing a play-off place in the group.

Sweden entered this fixture knowing that a draw would be enough to secure their place at the tournament in Australia and New Zealand next year, with last summer's Olympic silver medalists heavy favourites to win the game.

However, Ireland would have had some confidence that they could secure a positive result having been a tad unfortunate to lose to the Swedes by a single goal in the return fixture late last year. It would also put them in a strong position to finish second in the group.

Vera Pauw's side started well in the game. While the hosts had the vast majority of the possession, they failed to craft any real chances of note in the opening 20 minutes or so. In fact, they were probably lucky to keep 11 players on the pitch after this challenge from Hanna Bennison on Denise O'Sullivan.

Sweden would soon begin to turn the screw. They hit the bar just after the half hour mark, with Ireland hanging on and looking as though they were praying for halftime at this point.

However, then the game was turned on its head.

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On the back of a failed set-piece delivery just before the interval, Ireland suddenly found themselves in front after a deflected Katie McCabe effort from outside the box.

The visitors would lead 1-0 at halftime.

It was expected that Sweden would dominate the ball once again in the second half as they attempted to get back on level terms and so proved to be the case.

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Ireland were forced to defend in a low block, which they did brilliantly. The hosts were largely limited to hopeful crosses into the penalty area, which Courtney Brosnan dealt with brilliantly. On the occasions the ball did drop in the box, the likes of Lucy Quinn, Niamh Fahey, and Megan Connolly were on hand to clear.

There were a couple of close shaves, including this excellent stop from Brosnan on the hour mark.

Unfortunately, Sweden would have their equaliser heading into the final ten minutes.

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It came via Real Madrid's Kosovare Asllani, with Ireland probably would have been hoping to deal better with the long ball into the box.

While Sweden would push for a winner late on, the two sides would ultimately settle for a draw. Despite the disappointment of losing the lead late on, this is still an incredible result for this Ireland team against world class opposition.

This result secures Sweden's place in the World Cup.

As for Ireland, they look like favourites to secure that all important second position despite being pegged back for the draw. They sit two point behind Finland (who defeated Georgia earlier today), although they have a game in hand and a more favourable run-in with the two sides also set to meet in Tallaght this September.

Vera Pauw's will travel to take on Georgia in June, a fixture in which they will be heavy favourite to win considering they defeated the same opposition 11-0 a number of months ago.

Next comes that game against the Finns, where a victory at home would be enough to secure a play-off spot, assuming the Girls in Green have already defeated Georgia.

Ireland will then close their campaign in Slovakia, while Finland will host Sweden. However, Vera Pauw's side will be hoping to have the runner-up position wrapped by that point.

In other words, this result has Ireland well on their way to a play-off spot. From there, they can start dreaming of a first every World Cup appearance.

SEE ALSO: Stephen Kenny Defends Seamus Coleman After Carragher Criticism

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