The second of Ireland’s international friendly matches last week yielded another defeat as Vera Pauw’s team put on a duplicate optimistic but fruitless exhibit against Belgium.
Edging ever closer to accumulating results, the Girls in Green conceded an early goal from the foot of Tine De Caigny who sent a volley firing into the net in the 14th minute.
Heather Payne was Ireland’s stand out player as she cut down the wings to send crosses into the box but often had little to hit in the way of teammates coming on the counterattack as Belgium pegged back many of Ireland’s forward threats.
Just after the break captain Katie McCabe had a penalty shout denied while Courtney Brosnan and Megan Connolly kept out what could have been further nails in the coffin down the other end.
Chances to equalise came thick and fast as Littlejohn came close from a freekick just outside the box and had it not been for keeper Justien Odeur’s wonder save it would have sailed into the top corner in the 78th minute.
Substitute Rianna Jarrett also neared goal on a number of occasions but fumbled upon the final strike and left Ireland goalless from their two international fixtures of the window.
So close to an Irish equaliser! Ruesha Littlejohn's free-kick is superbly saved by Belgium keeper Justien Odeurs #RTEsoccer pic.twitter.com/tNy6TDzP4O
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) April 11, 2021
Speaking after the game manager Vera Pauw told @FAIreland that her side are “getting closer and closer and closer…We just need to score.”
“That’s the most difficult part but it’s the last piece and the rest will develop if we start to do that. We can have more composure and we can have more moments that we get the ball through, but that’s the same for the opponent. That will all grow when we start to score. I’m absolutely sure” says the Dutch native.
Having analysed performances, scrutinised match footage and worked on things in training Pauw promises “it’s not for nothing” and “you can see that every single player in this group is growing.”
"We are getting closer and closer" - WNT Manager Vera Pauw#BELIRL | #COYGIG | #WeAreOne pic.twitter.com/rAFnXY5O0i
— FAIreland ⚽️?? (@FAIreland) April 11, 2021
Flourishing as they are this Irish side have failed to get a result from their last five matches as early concessions let them down despite rallying as they settle into the game.
Constructively however there is little doubt that Ireland are on the up and up as new players get vital minutes to their name and the high press, one touch brand of football is somewhat of a beauty to behold.
While many players are just beginning to earn their stripes in this Irish side such as Alli Murphy who made her debut last Sunday, 25 year old McCabe earned her 50th cap at the weekend.
With 10 goals since she first dawned the Irish senior set up in 2015, the current Arsenal and ex Raheny/Shelbourne player remains as honoured as ever to wear the green shirt.
“I cannot describe the pride that I have in representing my country and it is something that I will never take for granted” says McCabe on the topic of her semi centennial of displays.
“Even though 50 caps is a significant milestone, I feel like I have so much more to give to the Ireland senior team. We will continue with our preparations for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and that is something that really motivates me because being part of the first Ireland team to qualify for a major tournament is the dream that I want to achieve more than anything else.”
As teammates and fans congratulate the Dublin star on her achievements they will also celebrate in the knowledge she is to remain steadfast in this Irish team that is yet to showcase its full potential.