Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels admits the team’s swift progress has “created a monster” and it will take another decade for the nation to reach the upper echelons of women’s football.
The country’s debut at a major tournament saw them outclassed by Norway in a 4-1 defeat at St Mary’s Stadium.
After conceding twice in the opening 10 minutes Northern Ireland were 3-0 down at half-time, although defending Julie Nelson – Northern Ireland’s most-capped female player – gave the competition’s lowest-ranked nation something to cheer shortly after the break.
“The scoreline was hard to take, I thought we deserved better than that but we are three years into this program and it will take 10 years to take us into the top 20 in Europe,” Shiels told the BBC.
“We have created a monster because we have grown too quickly and are playing against teams of this ilk. It is tough.
“If we can continue to progress then we can do it a bit quicker. We have to get real and understand this is an emerging game in Northern Ireland.”
A difficult evening for Northern Ireland was compounded by an injury to forward Simone Magill – who only completed a move from Everton to Aston Villa on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old was helped off the field in tears in the 79th minute and Shiels is not optimistic about her prognosis.
“We are worried about that more than anything,” he said.
“It’s her knee. I’m a football coach, not a doctor, but I don’t think the signs are good.”
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When your country calls…
The 21-year-old had been in the initial training squad of 28 but did not make the final cut so headed off on holiday.
But when she was contacted and asked to immediately fly to England she dropped everything on her break at a theme park near Barcelona.
“When we called her she left everything, she wasn’t at home,” said coach Jorge Vilda.
Denmark looking to go one better
Pernille Harder hopes her Denmark team’s bond and “tactical knowledge”’ can boost their fortunes at Euro 2022 as they prepare for their opening Group B game against Germany on Friday.
Harder will lead her side out as Denmark captain at the Brentford CommunityStadium as they aim to improve, having been runners-up in 2017.
“There are so many good teams playing in this European Championship, and Germany and Spain are two of the best, perhaps two of the favourites,” Harder told uefa.com.
“We know that on paper we are perhaps not as good as them but what we have – the team bond and the tactical knowledge – can maybe carry us a long way.”
England can inspire – Kirby
England forward Fran Kirby is hopes the Lionesses can be inspirational for the next generation.
The hosts opened Euro 2022 with a victory in front of a competition-record attendance of 68,871 in Manchester.
“I think our priority is to win the tournament, and to also show young boys and girls that these things are achievable, to play in front of 70,000 people at Old Trafford,” she said,
“When I was growing up, I never even imagined that it was possible. I think anything that’s going to help grow the game in this country and all over the world is a positive thing, regardless of whether we win or don’t.”
July 8: Spain v Finland (Group B: 5pm, Stadium MK) Germany v Denmark (Group B: 8pm, Brentford Community Stadium)