The Republic of Ireland senior women's team were beaten 4-0 by France in Guingamp in their penultimate Group 4 qualifying game. The result means that the French have extended their 100 per cent record in the group to seven games and booked their place at next summer's European Championship Finals with a game to spare.
France went two up after just 12 minutes through early strikes by Ă‰lodie Thomis's and EugĂ©nie Le Sommer and Le Sommer added her second just before half-time to give the home side a commanding 3-0 lead.
Ireland defended bravely in the second half with Emma Byrne producing a host of top class saves but the Arsenal keeper was eventually beaten for a fourth time in the final minutes when French substitute Julie Morel scored.
Ireland manager Sue Ronan had no complaints afterwards given the quality of the French side, who were roared to victory by an 18,000 capacity crowd. But she was disappointed with that her side conceded those two early goals.
"We set ourselves up to be compact but they used the full width of the pitch and caused us problems from that. We conceded an early goal which wasn't helpful and when we started to press higher they found space in behind us. We regrouped at half-time and it was disappointing to concede a fourth goal late on as the girls deserved a clean sheet for their second half performance," said Ronan.
The French have now booked their place in next summer's finals in Sweden and Ronan believes they have the ability to go and win the European Championships.
"They are one of the best teams in the world and in my opinion they are the best in Europe at present. After finishing fourth in the last World Cup and Olympics I won't be surprised if they go all the way in Sweden next summer. The bulk of the French side has been together for the last years and they are all full-time. They are technically good, very fit and very strong."
The Irish girls battled bravely against the French full-time professionals and there were excellent performances from Emma Byrne, Louise Quinn, Meabh de Burca, Yvonne Tracy, Ciara Grant and Niamh Fahey while substitute Julie Russell did well after she came on at half-time
Scotland made sure of second place in Group 4 by coming from behind to beat Wales 2-1 in Llanelli. Wales needed a victory and were ahead on 36 minutes when Helen Lander pounced on a Gwennan Harries shot parried by Gemma Fay. However, just before half-time Joanne Love headed in a corner from Kim Little, who won the game herself from the edge of the penalty box 22 minutes from time.
Ireland's final game in the group is on Wednesday in Israel and Ronan says they are determined to finish on a winning note.
"We desperately want to win on Wednesday in Israel. We've a long journey ahead of and we are moving from a place where the temperatures were in the teens to where they are currently 32 degrees. But the girls want to finish with a win and we'll be going all out for that," said Ronan.
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Meabh de Burca (Amazon Grimstad), Louise Quinn (Peamount United), Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Ciara Grant (Arsenal), Sophie Perry (Chelsea), Fiona O'Sullivan (SC Freiburg), Aine O'Gorman (Doncaster Belles), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes). Subs: Julie Ann Russell (Peamount United) for O'Gorman (46), Sara Lawlor (Peamount United) for Smyth (83). Unused Subs: Marie Curtin (FK Fortuna), Rebecca Creagh (Raheny United), Denise O'Sullivan (Cork Women's FC), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United), Grace Moloney (Reading).
France: CĂ©line Deville, Wendie Renard, Laure Boulleau, Laura Georges, Sandrine Soubeyrand, Corine Franco, EugĂ©nie Le Sommer, Camille Abily, Ă‰lodie Thomis, Louisa Necib, GaĂ«tane Thiney, Subs: Marie-Laure Delie for Thomis (55), Camille Catala for Soubeyrand (66), Julie Morel for Abily (80). Unused Subs: Sarah Bouhaddi, OphĂ©lie Meilleroux, Sonia Bompastor, Julie Soyer.
Referee: Mihaela Gurdon BasimamoviÄ‡ (Croatia).
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