Ireland chase World Cup points in Kazakhstan
The Republic of Ireland Women's International team will be seeking to put the disappointment of their 0-3 loss to Russia on Sunday behind them when they play Kazakhstan in a FIFA World Cup qualifying tie on Wednesday in Kazakhstan.
Two players will start a competitive match for Ireland for the first time as manager Noel King seeks to rejuvenate a team needing points to stay in contention in a very competitive qualifying group.
Ireland are in competition with Russia, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Israel for the one automatic qualifying spot for the next phase and already Russia have laid down their claims to that.
Their win over Ireland on Sunday has left them in a powerful position and manager King conceded as much when he said: "Russia are red-hot favourites to win the group.
"Realistically speaking, top spot is out of our hands due to our inferior goals difference. Our aim now has to be to finish second in the group ahead of Switzerland, Israel and Kazakhstan."
"To do that it is imperative that we win this match against Kazakhstan. We have to play positively, to look to create chances and our finishing needs to be better than it was against Kazakhstan in Cork last month." Ireland won that game 2-1 with a last-minute goal.
The scorer of that winning goal, Stephanie Roche (Raheny United), will make her first competitive start for Ireland in this match. Shannon McDonnell from Chicago will also make a first start and she will be playing alongside her sister, Mary Therese of Chicago Red Stars, who will be at full-back.
Ireland will be without Fiona O'Sullivan from San Francisco who picked up her second yellow card of the tournament against Russia.
The referee thought that the Irish player had faked a foul and dived but video evidence showed clearly she had been pulled to the ground. The referee conceded as much when she saw the replay after the game but it was too late to change her report.
The conditions experienced by the Irish players in Kazakhstan are far from ideal. Noel King said of the journey from Moscow to Kazakhstan: "It was the most arduous trip I have ever had to undertake in my 35 years career as player and manager. All of the players were exhausted on arrival here."
Temperatures in Kazakhstan are similar to Ireland during the daylight hours by it has turned very cold at night. The players training on the match pitch on Tuesday and found the surface very hard and bumpy. Consistent rain yesterday meant the pitch was almost flooded and as further rain is forecast tonight, the pitch is bound to be very heavy and will cut up.
"This will be a very difficult test but we have to be positive and look to play our football and win the game" said King, "it is not about performances at this point, it is all about winning points."
Ireland's team will be:
Emma Byrne (Arsenal)
Marie Curtin (Lifford) Mary Therese McDonnell (Chicago Red Stars), Niamh Fahy (Arsenal), Ciara Grant (Arsenal);
Kate Taylor (St. Catherines), Sonia Hughes (Tolka Rovers), Shannon McDonnell (Chicago), Stefanie Curtis (Chelsea);
Stephanie Roche (Raheny United), Aine O'Gorman (Stella Maris).
29/10/'09: FIFA Women's World Cup, Group Six qualifier
Kazakhstan v Republic of Ireland, Stadium Jetisy, Taldykorgan 2 pm (8 am Irish time)