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Ireland 'brim with confidence'

Republic of Ireland manager Noel King says his team are "capable of causing more shocks" as they prepare to make their women's final tournament debut against holders Germany on Tuesday.

Noel King (left) has led Ireland to their first women's finals
Noel King (left) has led Ireland to their first women's finals ©Olexandr Ilyin

The Republic of Ireland have made history just by qualifying for the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, but will need to raise their game again for next week's daunting semi-final with Germany.

Germany have won both previous editions of this competition and are the dominant nation in European women's football at all levels; no female Ireland team have previously qualified for any final tournament. That wait was ended when Noel King's team came from behind to beat Sweden 2-1 in April and reach the Women's U17 finals in Nyon. Now the manager believes they could upset the odds again – even against Germany.

"Everybody involved in women's football across Europe will expect nothing other than a fourth-place finish for the Irish in this tournament," King said. "However, in my opinion the squad is fully prepared and capable of causing more shocks. They've proven they're capable of raising their game and while I'm proud of our qualification, that is not the end of our ambition. We are not going there to make up the numbers; we're there on merit and prepared to fight all the way to the final."

The Dubliner managed top-flight clubs like Derry City FC, Shamrock Rovers FC, Finn Harps FC and Limerick FC, and has enjoyed success on the international stage before. He was part of the coaching staff when Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland side qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals. Ireland claimed some notable scalps in that era but if King's side defeat Germany it would, albeit on a different scale, represent an even bigger shock.

"Obviously it's going to be an incredibly difficult start to the finals coming up against European champions Germany," said King. "The country has a proud tradition in women's football and since the inception of this competition Germany have never lost a competitive game at this level. We recognise we are going into the game as obvious underdogs but a German defeat has to happen some time; what better time than a European semi-final?"

After all, King's team have already taken out one big name in women's football, Sweden. "Nobody expected this result except those involved with this incredibly talented Irish team. We played very well, the girls showed fantastic resilience, breathtaking skill and deserved to win," King said. "Their undying passion was the key to our success."

To prove it was no fluke, on 25 May they secured a just as impressive 4-0 friendly victory in England. "Confidence is absolutely brimming in the squad," King added. "To keep a clean sheet against England at any level is always marvellous and to get a comprehensive win like this gives everyone a boost ahead of the finals."