CHLOE Mustaki captained the Republic of Ireland Under-19 women’s soccer team to a famous 1-0 victory over Spain last Tuesday evening in their UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship debut in Oslo, Norway.
The former St Kilian’s, Clonskea and St Andrew’s, Booterstown student – who will play next year with the newly formed UCD Waves club – has been one of Irish football’s rising stars, captaining national sides at the younger age groups, too, and won the 2012 FAI Under-17 player of the year award.
And this is another big moment in her fledgling career as Clare Shine’s solo goal got Ireland’s campaign off to a flyer despite coming into the competition as the lowest seeded side.
Any fear of nerves in a first ever appearance at these finals was wiped out within seconds of the kick-off as Sarah Rowe unleashed an early shot, signalling Ireland’s intent and they quickly built on it with Shine and Katie McCabe combining well.
Dave Connell’s team, set up in a 4-3-3 formation, dominated most of the play and stretched Spain regularly. But they exhaled a sigh of relief when Sonia Fraile’s overhead kick struck the post.
Early in the second half, persistence paid off for Ireland as they took the lead on 54 minutes when Rowe’s cross was hooked clear to Shine who controlled the ball before converting with a stinging shot.
Connell’s troops showed excellent composure in the final stages to record a historic victory that sets them up for Friday’s Group B showdown with England before a final game against Sweden.
In so doing, they kept at bay a Spain side that had scored 13 times in qualifying but Connell admitted that his side were “not fearing anyone” in the build-up to the tie. Focus was solely on this tie but now Ireland can look forward to the rest of the group with high hopes.
“We played both England and Sweden in the La Manga tournament in March – drew with England, beat Sweden. We know what to expect. It’s a hard group. But we’ve got our homework done and we fancy our chances. We have very hard-working girls and we’re a tough nut to crack, so we’re going to make it difficult.
“There are eight countries in it and we’re in as eighth seed because we are in as the best runner-up. We got through the September qualifying round campaign unbeaten, we got through the La Manga tournament unbeaten, and we got through the elite qualifiers in Holland unbeaten.
“When it comes to the nitty gritty and the hard work in the group stages and competition time the girls are very focused. We’ve a good side and we’re looking forward to it – we’re not fearing anyone.”