Northern Ireland’s Women’s Under-17 team were defeated 2-0 by current European WU17 champions France in a friendly in Belfast this afternoon. Northern Ireland defended superbly and battled hard against a slick French side but were undone by an early goal and another right at the end of the game.
International challenge match
Northern Ireland WU17s 0 France WU17s 2
France: Ornella Graziani (10’), Justine Rouquet (89’)
13 September 2023
The friendly against the French was Gail Redmond’s first game in charge of the WU17s since she was appointed WU17s and WU19s boss back in April. She had a 20-strong panel to choose from for what was a preparation game ahead of the team competing in League A in the first round of qualifiers for the 2023-24 edition of the WU17 European Championship later this autumn.
How it happened
The first chance of the game fell to Northern Ireland. Striker Rhianna Breen scooped a free-kick over the bar in the third minute.
Northern Ireland goalkeeper Abbie Smith produced a fine fingertip save from a low drive before France took the lead on 10 minutes. A defensive mix-up was seized upon by Romane Rafalski and she slipped the ball to Ornella Graziani to apply the finish.
Smith was called into action again soon after the goal when she pushed a rasping shot from France captain Ambre Ouazar on to the post.
With Daisy Conway and Anastasija Stanyte providing solidity, the Northern Ireland defence stood firm as the visitors poured forward. Djenna Lena Tene and Graziani both looked dangerous as they ran at the home defence.
Ouazar’s speculative effort from distance drifted over the top, while just before the break Smith comfortably held on to a Rafalski shot.
Half-time: Northern Ireland WU17s 0 France WU17s 1
After the break the physically strong French team once again enjoyed the bulk of the possession, while the Northern Ireland defence and midfield worked tirelessly to take the sting out of French attacks.
Breen, who looked lively throughout, clipped an effort wide of the upright as Northern Ireland went in search of an equaliser.
Graziani fired over the top from an angle and Anais Ebayilin headed wide of the target as the visitors continued to press.
In the 81st minute Teneh, with Smith diving at her ankles, somehow managed to squeeze the ball to France substitute Meline Rubio who steered the ball wide with the goal gaping.
Substitute Justine Rouquet grabbed France’s second in the dying embers of the game. She raced on to a defence-splitting pass from Teneh before tucking the ball past Smith and into the net from 10 yards.
In added time Breen raced clear of the French defence but scooped her shot over the bar.
The second goal for France was cruel on Northern Ireland, who competed well against the European champions throughout the 90-plus minutes.
Full-time: Northern Ireland WU17s 0 France WU17s 2
Northern Ireland WU17s: Abbie Smith, Zoe Knox, Niamh Hassan, Daisy Conway, Anastasija Stanyte, Darcie McNeill (captain), Mia Moore, Clodagh Moore, Rhianna Breen, Gracie Conway, Sophie Kelly-Bradley.
Substitutes: (used) Bernie Ferreira, Rhianna Murphy, Lucy Kelly; (unused) Zara Maguire (GK), Laurie Bell, Ellen Hampton, Caitlyn Carlisle, Kirsten Farley, Jessica McGuinness.
France WU17s: Ambre Bouchard, Roxanne Bolduc, Juliane Denizot, Kenza Roche Dufour, Ornella Graziani, Anais Ebayilin, Djenna Tene, Ambre Ouazar (captain), Ines Sandallah, Melia Bourdoncle, Romane Rafalski.
Substitutes: Ceylin Yilmaz (GK), Messina Fouda Ahmadou, Maelle Richelandet, Lea Sylejmani, Justine Rouquet, Lina Gay, Meline Rubio, Louna Lemort, Celi Chabod.