Vera Pauw’s history-makers must glean results from co-hosts Australia, Olympic gold medallists Canada and African champions Nigeria to escape Group B at next year’s football World Cup.
Two teams qualify for the knockout stages, but a draining three matches in 11 days, while covering 8,000km and three cities, makes progress to the knockout stages an enormous task for the Republic of Ireland.
And yet, opening gambits at major tournaments used to be an Irish speciality.
Front and centre of this global gathering, Ireland face The Matildas at the Sydney Football stadium on July 20th, an opponent they beat 3-2 in Tallaght stadium last year despite the presence of Chelsea superstar Sam Kerr.
“It’s a very tough draw,” said Pauw, “but on the other hand it is exciting. The game will explode [in Ireland].
“How good is it to play the opening game against the host nation in a full…