Austria Women 2 – 0 N Ireland Women

Northern Ireland’s slim hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2022 round of 16 ended after losing 2-0 to Austria in a scorching St Mary’s stadium followed by England victory over Norway.

Kenny Shiels’ side entered their second group game knowing that failure to win would leave their knockout qualification hopes hanging by a thread, a scenario that was not helped by the 42-degree heat pitchside at Southampton at kick-off.

And minutes before the Northern Ireland players were given a water break in the first half, Katharina Schiechtl tapped Sarah Puntigam’s free kick from close range, before substitute Katharina Naschenweng does not seal the match at the end of the match.

The result meant Northern Ireland needed England to lose to Norway later on Monday, but instead the tournament hosts secured a record 8-0 victory to seal the team’s fate. Shiels.

Austria started better in the scorching heat, with winger Julia Hickelsberger looking to be the brightest player on the pitch in the first exchanges.

The game was played in scorching heat, with a pitchside temperature of 42 degrees Celsius at kick-off.

The 22-year-old Austrian winger headed in Barbara Dunst’s cross in the opening rallies before creating two chances for striker Nicole Billa early on – one which hit the side netting and the other stifled by goalkeeper Jackie Burns at the striker’s feet.

Northern Ireland rarely managed to get out of their own half but did create a few chances when they did. Lauren Wade and Kirsty McGuiness tried their luck, but goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger managed to hold off both efforts with ease.

And the stalemate was broken moments before the much-needed break for Northern Ireland as Schiechtl was on hand to hit Puntigam’s deflected free-kick on the edge of the box – a free-kick won by the crafty Hickelsberger.

Katharina Schiechtl gives Austria the lead from a free kick
Katharina Schiechtl gives Austria the lead from a free kick

It could have been two seconds later when Hickelsberger was released down the right with a long ball forward – and only a final challenge from Sarah Mcfadden prevented Billa from having a tap-in.

Northern Irish keeper Burns went from zero to hero as her reckless backpass fell straight into Dunst’s path, although the goalkeeper was able to exploit the Austrian winger’s effort from wide on the crossbar.

Shiels’ side managed to stifle Austria’s attacking momentum early in the second half but struggled to create their own chances. Wade put another first-time speculative effort well over Zinsberger’s bar and nothing else followed at either end until the hour mark.

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels looks on in anguish
Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels looks on in anguish

For Austria, Dunst produced a shot from the edge of the box that went through Burns’ hands – but landed on top of the Northern Irish net and not inside. Substitute Laura Feiersinger launched an effort just above the Northern Irish goal as the game entered its final five minutes.

And the result was confirmed when substitute Abbie Magee was caught under Puntigam’s long punt, leaving Naschenweng toss the ball past Burns. At the final whistle a few minutes later, it felt like Austria had kept their opponents at bay.

Shiels: NI arrived too soon at this Euro

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels' after his side lost 2-0 to Austria
Northern Ireland coach Kenny Shiels after his side lost 2-0 to Austria

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels to the BBC:

“I think 1-0, 2-0 was a bit fair. They weren’t overwhelmingly better than us, but they were in the key areas. 2-0 is probably about right.

“You look at the prospect and where we are and where Austria are in terms of where they have arrived in the women’s game. They have one of the best academies in Europe. They are a really tough opponent but we’re practicing that as much as we can and the players are getting the experience of the tough games – with another one to come and no bigger than England.

“If you look at where we were when we arrived, we got to this level too soon. There’s no way to transform a team in two years like we did and get it to this level immediately. We have development elements that we need to do, with the 19, 20 year olds to bring them to the senior team.

Shiels speaks to his Northern Ireland side after the loss to Austria
Shiels speaks to his Northern Ireland side after the loss to Austria

“Winning the game is important but I have a priority in my head where if we can’t win it let’s give the youngsters experience, they will be there for many years.

“We are not a good future yet, because we will lose the experienced players. Do we have enough to challenge the best teams, not yet. We must continue to improve the U19s and the U17s, to improve them so that they reach a level they are willing to play in. Some of those players who [played today] are not ready to play, but experience is part of development. It is vital that we know this.

“They [England] are one of the best teams in the world, I don’t think I’m approaching that [third group] game until we return to the hotel.”

McFadden: The players are completely disgusted

Northern Irish defender Sarah McFadden speaking to the BBC:

“Really close, we’re gutted. Absolutely gutted. In the first half we tackled them and didn’t capitalize, we didn’t have a clean chance. We thought today was the day when we would obtain a victory in these championships.

“We were so into the game, we put so much into it in the first half. We had people in the dressing room knocked out at halftime, but Austria have a superstar squad, with players playing in the best leagues in the world. We tried to turn the screw but we got caught.

“These girls are so lucky, the future they have ahead of them. Playing in front of such amazing fans, how can that not help you fulfill your potential?”

And after?

Northern Ireland complete their Euro 2022 group stage campaign with a clash against tournament favorites England at St Mary’s on Friday night, kicking off at 8pm.

Austria take on Norway at the Amex Stadium in Brighton, also kicking off at 8pm.

Sky Sports

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