The republic is at the top of Group I with 13 points after playing one game more than second-placed Germany
Women from the Republic of Ireland prepare for one of the greatest games in history when they travel to Kiev in qualifying for the European Championship on Friday to face Ukraine with the prospect of making it to a major tournament for the first time.
A win for Vera Pauw’s team would secure a play-off spot while there is still one game left. A best runner-up – who guarantees automatic qualification – is also controversial.
“It’s a final, it’s a final for everyone – for Ukraine and for us,” said Pauw.
“The strength of Ukraine and ours is very, very close at the moment.
“I spoke to a player and she said this was most likely the most important game of her career – and she is one of the veterans.”
“You underestimated us”
Ukraine conceded 16 goals in their two games against Germany last year, but wins against Montenegro and Greece last month mean they’re just seven points behind the Republic in one game.
Pauw’s side won 3-2 in the second leg last October, but the Republic of Ireland boss remains convinced that her side will face another opponent in Kiev.
“Ukraine underestimated us. I think they were overwhelmed by our structure and the way we approached them,” she said.
“In our first game everyone wanted so badly to get a positive result. There was such intensity, the whole stadium felt that intensity, the crowd brought it to the field. Now the intensity comes from the fact that this is a final for everyone .
“You [Ukraine] you also know and feel how important this is. Just like they played against Greece in the second half [last month]I haven’t seen her like this before. They are much better at moving forward so we need to be prepared for that. “
The republic beat Ukraine 3-2 when the teams met last October
Chartered Flight signals a positive step in the fight for gender equality
The squad will be stationed in Duisburg, Germany this week before flying to the Ukrainian capital on Friday. Pauw announced that her team will travel on a chartered plane for the first time, following a decision by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).
“I’d like to say a big thank you to the FAI. I think this is the first time the women’s team has been chartered,” she added.
“In this Covid situation, the risk of absorbing the virus is so great that you have to travel to the normal airport and be in harmony with others.
“The managers had said we had to achieve this. If we say that we are trying to achieve gender equality, this is the moment when it is necessary because otherwise we will endanger our players and qualification, aside from personal respect.
“It shows the change in thought that women’s game is in every single discussion, and they have now proven themselves that it’s not just a discussion, it’s really serious.”
Following an outbreak of coronavirus in the men’s squad in recent weeks that severely affected the availability of Stephen Kenney players, Pauw explained how the Covid-19 protocols were tightened even further on the German training base to protect their players and their bladder Protect employees.
“We are so aware this week that everyone has isolated themselves. What I’ve heard from all of the players is that they really tried to stay away from people. I’ve isolated myself, my staff have isolated and we hope that it is so. ” stay away from the squad.
“In our hotel [in Germany]Nobody enters our room. We get the towels for the entire stay immediately, we make our own beds, we don’t have any cleaning staff. We also have another area that we eat in. “
Despite all of the challenges the squad faces in the current climate, Pauw admitted that she got goosebumps as she pondered what her team could achieve in the coming weeks.
“It’s fantastic that we can play. I’m very happy that we played Germany last month, that we saw each other, that we know where we stand. We have prepared, so we’ll see on the pitch . “
“I feel privileged to be the coach of this team because the determination is great and they are so ready to take that final step.”