Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels admits the team’s rapid progress has “created a monster” and it will take another decade for the nation to reach the highest levels of women’s football.
The country’s debut in a major tournament saw them outclassed by Norway in a 4–1 loss at St Mary’s Stadium.
After conceding two goals in the first 10 minutes, Northern Ireland trailed 3-0 at half-time, although defender Julie Nelson, Northern Ireland’s most capped player, gave the competition’s lowest-ranked nation something to celebrate shortly after the break.
“The score was hard to take, I thought we deserved better than that, but we’ve been on this show for three years and it will take 10 years to get us into the top 20 in Europe,” Shiels told the BBC.
“We have created a monster because we have grown too fast and we are playing against teams of this type. It’s hard.
“If we can continue to progress, then we can do it a little bit faster. We have to be realistic and understand that this is an emerging game in Northern Ireland.”
A difficult night for Northern Ireland was compounded by an injury to striker Simone Magill, who only completed her move from Everton to Aston Villa on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old was helped off the pitch in tears in the 79th minute and Shiels is not optimistic about her prognosis.
“We are worried about that more than anything,” he said.
It’s your knee. I’m a football coach, not a doctor, but I don’t think the signs are good.”
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When your country calls…
Real Sociedad striker Amaiur Sarriegi received an unexpected call-up when Alexia Putellas was ruled out of the Spain squad with a knee injury.
The 21-year-old had been in the initial training squad of 28 but did not make the final cut, so he went on vacation.
But when she was contacted and asked to immediately fly to England, she left everything on her break at a theme park near Barcelona.
“When we called her, she left everything, she wasn’t at home,” said coach Jorge Vilda.
Denmark seeks to improve
Pernille Harder hopes her Denmark team’s bond and “tactical knowledge” can boost their fortunes at Euro 2022 as they prepare for their Group B opener against Germany on Friday.
Harder will lead her team as captain of Denmark at the Brentford Community
Stadium as they intend to improve, having been runners-up in 2017.
“There are so many good teams playing in this European Championship, and Germany and Spain are two of the best, maybe two of the favourites,” Harder told uefa.com.
“We know that on paper we may not be as good as them, but what we have, the team bond and the tactical knowledge, maybe it can help us a lot.”
England can inspire – Kirby
England striker Fran Kirby hopes the Lionesses can inspire the next generation.
The hosts opened Euro 2022 with a victory in front of a record attendance of 68,871 in Manchester.
“I think our priority is to win the tournament and also to show the boys and girls that these things can be achieved, playing in front of 70,000 people at Old Trafford,” he said.
“When I was a child, I never imagined that this was possible. I think anything that helps grow the game in this country and around the world is a positive thing, regardless of whether we win or not.”
Until next time
Spain v Finland (Group B: 5:00 p.m., MK Stadium)
Germany v Denmark (Group B: 8:00 p.m., Brentford Community Stadium)