A classy French side were simply too strong for Northern Ireland’s Under-17 women’s team in a WU17 Euros elite round qualifier.
France, the group favourites, powered into a five-goal lead in the first half and there was no way back for Alison Nicholl’s side. The French had 34 attempts in the game compared to Northern Ireland’s three and the final scoreline was 5-0.
The game was staged in Portugal as part of a WU17 Euros four-team mini elite round tournament. Northern Ireland’s second game is against hosts Portugal later today, while their final game will see them tackle the Czech Republic on Friday (29 March).
French striker Cyrine Ben Rabah was the star of the show in the win over Northern Ireland.
She netted four times in the first half at the Municipal Stadium Carlos Duarte in Pampilhosa.
Ben Rabah netted from the spot in the seventh minute to get her scoring spree under way. The penalty was awarded after Northern Ireland keeper Jenna Corry upended defender Celina Ould Hocine.
Her second came in the 16th minute when she snapped up a rebound after Corry had saved an effort from French forward Hawa Sangare. And she completed her hat-trick six minutes later with a crisp drive after being put through by Vicki Becho.
The fourth goal for the French was not scored by Ben Rabah. Instead Becho got her name on the scoreshoot with a smart finish.
However, 10 minutes later Ben Rabah was on target again. Ould Hocine had a shot blocked by the Northern Ireland defence but the striker was on hand to slam home the loose ball.
Alison Nicholl’s team put in a much better performance in the second period compared to the first. They competed well with France in all areas of the pitch and produced a spirited and resolute display.
And they almost pulled a goal back when Casey Howe rounded the French keeper only for a French centre back to make a timely clearance.
Today’s game against Portugal is due to kick off at 17.00 GMT. The Portuguese defeated the Czechs 1-0 in their first game in the mini tournament.
Northern Ireland WU17 squad: Jenna Corry (GK), Lauren Welsh (GK); Toni Leigh Finnegan, Libby Gilmore, Jessica Rea, Sasha Clare, Eirinn Canavan, Kirsty Cameron, Olivia Marshall, Fi Morgan, Breckyn Monteith; Sophie Megaw, Joely Andrews, Mia Fitzsimmons, Kerry Beattie, Grainne O’Casey; Faith Johnston, Danielle Maxwell, Casey Howe, Kaitlin McGuinness.