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Perfect Ireland progress with Sweden win

Sweden 1-2 Republic of Ireland
Megan Connolly grabbed a late winner as Ireland completed a comeback victory to top Group B and seal a semi against the Dutch.

Megan Connolly is mobbed after scoring Ireland's winner
Megan Connolly is mobbed after scoring Ireland's winner ©Sportsfile

The Republic of Ireland will face the Netherlands in the semi-finals after topping Group B with a perfect record, Megan Connolly striking late to complete a comeback win against eliminated Sweden.

Debutants Ireland win section, Sweden finish third
Blackstenius gives Sweden early lead
McCarthy equalises, Connolly makes the difference
Semi-finals: Norway v Spain; Ireland v Netherlands

An eighth-minute opener from Stina Blackstenius put the Swedes ahead, as goalkeeper Brooke Dunne was caught off her line and was duly punished by the talented No9 who had expertly controlled a looping ball. On the back of two wins from their opening two games, the Irish did not let that setback knock them out of their stride and they were level on 21 minutes when defender Savannah McCarthy leapt the highest to meet Connolly's precision free-kick and head the equaliser.

Ireland celebrate
Ireland celebrate©Sportsfile

In stiflingly hot conditions it was the Irish who coped the better and their strength showed after the interval, forging on and getting the winner in the 80th minute. It was 17-year-old Connolly who was rewarded for a performance full of hard work and determination when her curling free-kick slipped inside the post of Zecira Musovic. That sparked scenes of delight among the Irish players and fans, who can now look forward to Thursday's last-four showdown with the Netherlands.

Connell (C) with Lauren Dwyer and assistant Dave Bell
Connell (C) with Lauren Dwyer and assistant Dave Bell©Sportsfile

David Connell, Ireland manager
Not a lot of people gave us a chance before this tournament started. We have heart and belief, which I truly think is what drives us on. How far can we go? Of course we can go all the way. We have everything it takes to be champions. Their goal came quite early on, so there was plenty of time to get back into it. We showed great character out there and the girls really dug deep. We have two 17-year olds getting the goals. That says it all at this level.

I really hope the people of Ireland are proud of us. We finished the group on three wins and nine points, played three top nations and showed what we can do. I am absolutely delighted for the girls. There's a lot of belief that we can go all the way. We are very hard to beat because of that belief and they showed amazing courage in this and the other two games.

Megan Connolly, Ireland forward
It is an indescribable feeling! This feeling you get, it really is the most amazing. It was really tough out there tonight. I am pretty fit, although when you're out there in that heat, you don't feel fit. You just have to be mentally strong and push through it, and I think that's what we did.

I know Dave [Connell] talks about this belief we have, and he has put it there. When we first saw the group, with Spain, England and Sweden, we weren't scared. That might sound surprising but we weren't. Dave has said we need to believe in ourselves, he planted the seed and we do, and here we are, ready for the semi-finals.