This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s World Cup 2023 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 20 July.
Until last year, the closest the Republic of Ireland had come to qualifying for a major tournament was when they made it to a playoff for Euro 2009, Iceland putting paid to their ambitions. But after taking the runners-up spot in their World Cup qualifying group behind Sweden, thanks largely to beating Finland home and away, they finally did it with a 1-0 playoff victory over Scotland last October.
“What heroes, what fighters, what tigers,” said a rapturous Vera Pauw that night at Hampden Park, the Dutchwoman, after 25 years in coaching, having made it to her first World Cup too. Seven defeats in a row in the early part of her reign hardly augured well, but the team turned it around, captain Katie McCabe and midfielder Denise O’Sullivan, with 13 goals and 11 assists between them in the qualifying campaign, their standout players.
The success, however, has primarily been built on a solid defence, with Louise Quinn and Niamh Fahey at its heart. Goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan has shone after difficult moments earlier in her career, seven successive clean sheets up to last April earning her Ireland’s international player of the year award.