Ireland WNT: 'We have ability to do damage when we have the ball' - Bell
The squad has been together since last Monday and trained this afternoon in Reggio Emilia ahead of the match which has an 18:30 (17:30 Irish time) kick-off in the Mapei Stadium.
WNT Head Coach Colin Bell said his squad is looking good and are all very much looking forward to the fixture.
He said: “We’ve had a very good camp with some good quality training; the players are looking individually very good and tactically strong. These are the tests that we need, we need to be competing against top nations to see how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.”
And Bell feels that his Irish side have a good chance of doing well against the Italian team that are preparing for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France this summer.
Bell said: “Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of Italian football and Italian coaches, so it’s going to be very exciting to play the game here. The girls have worked really well and now it’s just a case of putting what we’ve done in training into practice in the game and reacting to every situation as well as we can.
“I think they’ll start very aggressively and with a high tempo. They are preparing for the World Cup so they will obviously want to push themselves, it’s a home crowd, all these things will play a role. We’ll have to weather that storm to start off with and make sure that we stay organised and take that pressure. But that’s what we expect when we play in the European qualifiers against Germany and the Ukraine, so we must learn to deal with those kind of situations.”
While the game will be a big test for the squad, the coach also feels that his players have plenty to offer in their own right.
He said: “We also have enough ability to try and do damage when we have the ball and when we go forward and that’s what we have to try and exploit. Their players will be battling for places, to make that final cut to go to France. That’s why we picked this game. This game is about seeing how far away we are from being able to beat a number one seed. That’s the barrier we have to get over”.
Squad captain Katie McCabe says the players are in good spirits ahead of the tie and will be looking to make their mark on the game.
McCabe said: “It’s nice to get back into camp, it was obviously a quick turnaround from Marbella but it good to get focused and get in the game mode again. It’s an important game, Italy are always going to be a big test and that’s what we’re looking for. This is their last game before their send-off for the World Cup, so no doubt they’ll be looking for a win but we’re certainly not going to roll-over and give it to them, we’re going to prepare the way we will be preparing in the qualifying campaign. So, it’s a big challenge as we both will very much want the win.”
And the 23-year-old Arsenal midfielder feels that the squad are getting better and better every time they are together.
She said: “We’ve come a long way, especially in the last two years with how we’ve tried to play and our approach. It shows how far we’ve come as a nation to be getting big games like this against big teams.
“We learned a lot of lessons from our last qualifying campaign. You always should be learning, even when you’re winning games there is something to learn, and obviously if you lose, there are things you need to put right.”
The Tallaght woman is also progressing with pace in her club career and was nominated for Player of the Month in the FA Women’s Super League and is hoping for a successful finish to the season.
McCabe said: “I was feeling confident coming into to camp off the Birmingham game, getting the goal was great, to send Arsenal back into the Champions League where we haven’t been in five years and that’s where a club like Arsenal should be. And we’ve a big run-in now, with three games left to try and claim the league title. I’m very happy there, things are going great and it’s always going to be good to be involved in a title race.”
But McCabe was keen to stress that that’s put to one side for now and all minds are firmly set on getting the best result possible from tomorrow’s game.
She said: “We’ve got our group now and we are focused and so we’re going into this Italy game with the mind-set of taking each game as it comes. The camp’s been great. It’s been relaxed and we’ve been well looked after. With everyone coming in off different stages of the season, I think that’s been handled very well. We know well know what way we want to approach the game and how we want to set up, so we’re just ready to get going now and get on to pitch tomorrow. It should be a great test.”
Republic of Ireland WNT squad v Italy
Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan (Brighton & Hove Albion), Grace Maloney (Reading)
Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Claire O'Riordan (MSV Duisburg), Megan Campbell (Manchester City), Zara Foley (Cork City), Eabha O'Mahoney (Cork City), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Midfielders: Tyler Toland (Kildrum Tigers), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Jessica Ziu (Shelbourne), Niamh Farrelly (Peamount United)
Forwards: Amber Barrett (Peamount Uinted), Leanne Kiernan (West Ham United), Emily Whelan (Shelbourne), Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Rianna Jarrett (Wexford Youths)
Tuesday, April 9: Italy v Republic of Ireland, Mapei Stadium, Reggio Emilia, 18:30 (17:30 Irish time)