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Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe has urged the squad to harness the spirit of the underdog ahead of Thursday’s World Cup opener against Australia.

The World Cup debutants begin their Group B campaign against the co-hosts, who are 12 places above them in the FIFA rankings and will be backed by the majority of the 80,000 crowd at Sydney’s Stadium.

It will be only the second match between the nations but Ireland won 3-2 when they met back in 2021, thanks to a goal from Denise O’Sullivan, who has been declared fit for the fixture.

McCabe, who overcome her own injury scare a fortnight ago, said: “Yeah, it is something as a small nation, you kind of carry that (underdog) title I guess.

“We know we are debutants in the tournament, but we know what we want to do. We don’t want to just be happy to be here.

“We want to compete and give Australia, Canada and Nigeria the hardest games possible. That will start tomorrow night and it is exciting.

“We know what Australia have, they have quality all over the park but we also know what we can do.”

Head coach Vera Pauw referenced their slogan ‘outbelieve’ when looking ahead to playing Australia and insisted they would not buckle under pressure after coming through stern examinations with Sweden, Finland and Scotland to qualify for a first-ever major tournament.

“That word will end up in the dictionary because we outbelieve we can do something special here,” Pauw reiterated.

“That is how we ended up here because we outbelieve and we did something that nobody expected, but we are realistic.

“We are very realistic, otherwise you cannot succeed, but the key thing everybody will feel is we have no fear of failure.

“We are a team who so far we did not collapse on the higher pressure, whether it was away in a record crowd with Sweden, away with a record crowd in Finland or at Hampden Park and in our stadium with record crowds.”

The Girls in Green only arrived in Sydney this week, but were greeted by floods of Irish fans, with a large community based Down Under.

Arsenal midfielder McCabe added: “It’s crazy to think we’re actually here. We landed only a short while ago in Sydney airport, greeted by a number of Irish fans, so it was really nice to see them there.

“They are our home away from home, I guess and to see the numbers who have travelled, the pictures online of people here in Sydney, is really special.

Denise O’Sullivan (left) and Chloe Mustaki at the airport
Denise O’Sullivan (left) is fit after her injury in Friday’s physical warm-up match (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I think the whole team feel that. Not just players but staff as well, the support we have from here and back home as well. No doubt we want to do the nation proud tomorrow night.”

Pauw revealed: “We knew there would be fans, but again it is so heart-warming every time the way the Irish are reacting on us. It is not just being there, it is way they are there.”

Meanwhile, Ireland have firmly put their friendly fiasco with Colombia behind them after 101-capped O’Sullivan was confirmed to be fit enough to face Australia.

North Carolina Courage captain O’Sullivan suffered a soft tissue and bone bruise injury during a warm-up match on Friday with the South Americans that was aborted after only 20 minutes due to it being an “overly physical” contest.

But Pauw confirmed: “Denise is fit, she will play.”

McCabe concluded: “For us now it is full focus on Australia. We knew Colombia would be physical but it will be the case in every single game.

“We’re Irish, we don’t shy away from physicality. It is ingrained in us.”

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