Alfie Wylie insists Northern Ireland’s senior women have a spring in their step following strong performances in this year’s Alanya Gold City Cup.
The National Women’s Manager said the team have more belief in themselves after registering three wins in four games at the tournament in Turkey.
Northern Ireland finished third overall after defeating Jordan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Their only defeat came in the group stages against eventual overall winners France B.
“It was probably the strongest group of players I have taken to a tournament. We had a few players missing, however we had a really good blend of youth and experience. And the performances showed the players mean business going forward,” said Wylie.
The Northern Ireland senior women’s boss believes the “good preparation on and off the pitch” and the performance levels reached in Turkey will prove beneficial to the squad as they look ahead to the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.
The European qualifiers get under way in August with a tie against Norway and Wylie senses the players are in a determined mood ahead of the new campaign. They will also face Wales, Belarus and Faroe Islands in Group C of the qualifiers.
Wylie continued: “We had a good training camp in January and our trip to Turkey definitely instilled belief in the squad. Off the pitch, in trying to lay down a foundation for the year ahead, we challenged the players to find a common focus, a common theme.
“That focus is that they can up their game, that they mean business. There is a lot of positivity. Resilience and belief have grown within the squad. I think that was reflected in the performances.”
He also noted the players had trained hard in Turkey and he believes the emergence of younger talent has ensured all players now know they have to perform at their best to be part of the panel.
A 6-0 win over Jordan got the ball rolling for Northern Ireland at the Gold City Cup before they lost 3-1 to France B.
Wylie said the performance against Jordan, who are ranked nine places above Northern Ireland, was “emphatic and dominant”. “You can’t ask for better than to beat a team by six goals and keep a clean sheet,” he pointed out.
The game against eventual cup winners France B was much tougher. After a poor first half performance Northern Ireland rallied in the second half to level it at one each. And they had chances before being undone by a controversial penalty and an added time sucker punch.
They bounced back against Kazakhstan, however, to seal a third/fourth place play-off spot. Wylie said it was “an outstanding performance with good intensity” by the team as they ran out 4-0 winners.
The bronze medal game against Uzbekistan saw the manager field the most experienced team he has ever put out – with more than 530 caps between them – and they largely controlled proceedings as they notched up a 2-1 win.
In that game, however, he also used younger players from the bench and he was delighted with their contribution during the overall trip. Linfield Ladies striker Rebecca McKenna (18), for example, played in every game. “The way the younger players performed shows the Irish FA’s women’s performance pathway is starting to bear fruit,” he insisted.
Next stop for the women’s senior team are friendlies in June which have still to be confirmed - and Wylie is confident the positivity generated in Turkey can be built upon going forward.