Northern Ireland girls confident of surprise win over Scotland U19s
NORTHERN Ireland manager Alfie Wylie and team captain Emma McMaster insist their team can pull off a surprise tonight and keep their chances of World Cup place alive with a win over Scotland at the Uefa U19 championship at Mourneview Park (7pm).
Nobody gave the hosts a chance of beating Spain in Tuesday's opener but there were plenty of positives in a 2-0 defeat against last year's finalists to build on ahead of tonight's game against the Scots, who had lost 3-0 to Germany in their first game a few hours earlier.
The two Celtic rivals are the only teams who have never won the U19 series before and, providing France secure a top two finish in the other group, the third placed side will have a play-off against the nation that finishes in the same position in the other section with a slot in the U20 World Cup the reward for the winners.
Such a scenario would have been unlikely for the north going into the showpiece but hopes are higher that they can defy the odds after an heroic display against a Spanish side that had reached the final in four of the past five seasons.
However, Wylie is in no doubt about the magnitude of the task that lies ahead in Lurgan tonight, despite that battling display against the classy Spaniards.
?Scotland have probably targeted us and we have targeted them in the group, but it is a different proposition. They topped their qualifying group, then went to the elite round and knocked out Finland, a side who many thought would be here for the finals." said the Northern Ireland boss.
"They also defeated the Republic of Ireland so Scotland are a good side, with a good structure and have a good performance Academy and have girls who are playing at high levels.
"It will be a tough ask for again for our girls and for us it is another part of our learning curve and how we move forward and look to the girls? futures.
"They showed against Spain, they can do it on this stage and if they give themselves the right belief, work hard on their training and get fit and strong there is no doubt in their ability.
"There is no doubt some of these girls have a great future ahead in the game. People will be talking about them as top players in the years ahead.
"The girls were shattered when they came in as they had given their all. They were maybe a bit critical of themselves about losing as well because we had set standards, but we told them we could not have asked anymore of them and we are immensely proud of them."
Cliftonville midfielder McMaster, who stole the show against Spain after switching from her normal role to the heart of the defence, was buoyed by her side's performance against Spain.
"We were delighted about the way we played against such a talented side and we take a lot of positives going into the Scotland game." she said.
"But they are a top side with players who play regularly at a higher level than most of us so it is going to be really tough, we are in no doubt about that.
"However, we were really encouraged by the record crowd who came out to support us at Windsor Park and, if we can get the same level of support against Scotland that will really spur us on and who knows what might happen."