Ireland defender Diane Caldwell believes the soccer team qualified for their first World Cup in spite of Vera Pauw, not because of the Dutchwoman.

Ireland players came into camp ahead of Saturday's inaugural Nations League game against Northern Ireland at Lansdowne Road, and broke their silence on the departure of their former boss with Caldwell launching a blistering attack on Pauw's methods.

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'From my position as a pretty experienced player, I don't think it was up to the standard that's expected at international level,' said the Balbriggan native, who recently joined FC Zurich.

'The results and performances that we got were in spite of Vera being our coach.' She also revealed that the players approached Pauw on a number of occasions about modernising her coaching.

The defender said she and Katie McCabe went to then-FAI High Performance director Ruud Dokter in 2020, after failing to qualify for the Euros, 'about certain aspects that needed to be improved and changed, but ultimately that fell on deaf ears and she [Pauw] got a contract extension'.

It is why Caldwell is encouraged that the players were listened to during the World Cup review and why she believes standards will be raised. Already, the backroom team includes a sports psychologist, nutritionist and performance coach, none of which were part of the previous regime.

She said: 'We have seen with the implementation of those three roles that it is a sign of intent from the FAI, because we never had them before. They realised from their review that there are a lot of areas that needed to be improved within this team. And it shows we want to be progressive and raise the standards.'

Caldwell believes now that the team can achieve even better results in the coming years. 'There will obviously be higher expectation but I think we will deal with that and it is not anything to be scared of. I believe this team will get better.'

2023-09-19T08:10:41Z dg43tfdfdgfd