Hockey World Cup 2018: Champions Australia survive Ireland test in World Cup opener

For Australia, hoping to become the first nation to win three successive titles, Friday’s match will be a wake-up call. Half of their side is playing for the first time in the World Cup, with the aim of preparing them for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

other sports Updated: Nov 30, 2018 20:32 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Bhubaneswar
Hockey World Cup 2018,Champions Australia,Ireland
Australia's players celebrate after scoring a goal during the field hockey group stage match between Australia and Ireland at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar on November 30, 2018(AFP)

Considering past World Cup performances and their respective world rankings, defending champions Australia were expected to sweep aside Ireland in their opening Pool B match at the hockey World Cup here on Friday.

However, Australia were made to huff and puff against a team ranked nine rungs below them before winning 2-1. Much was expected from the team seeking a hat-trick of titles, but it was the efforts of Ireland that got the spectators’ applause.

For Australia, hoping to become the first nation to win three successive titles, Friday’s match will be a wake-up call. Half of their side is playing for the first time in the World Cup, with the aim of preparing them for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but if they want to stay in title contention, they will have to work more on their forward line, which failed to make much of an impression.

“Ireland played well and gave us a tough challenge. We are happy that we won the match, but at the same time we need to fix some of the areas where we didn’t perform well in today’s match,” Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter said after the match.

“Our defence was good, and we stopped a number of good moves by Ireland. But we need to work on our forward department. There were a lot of lapses, especially during penalty-corner execution. We will work on it before taking on our next opponent,” he added.

On the other hand, Ireland skipper David Harte was not satisfied with the outcome of the match. “There was no pressure on us playing against the defending champions. We had good preparation before coming here and the team took to the field to win this match. Somehow despite playing good hockey, we lost. It’s a disappointment for us. Simultaneously, we are taking the positives form this match for our next encounter,” said Harte.

Though the score-line at the end of the first quarter indicates a well-match game, it was Ireland who dominated the 15 minutes of the tie. They knew if they had to stop Australia attack was the only option. Because it would be impossible to stop Australia from scoring, Ireland realized the best way was to attack and confine them more to defence.

Ireland made two attempts, one each from the left and right flanks, in the first three minutes, pushing Australia into defence. Australia forced the first penalty corner in the 11th minute. Blake Govers was not successful, but his flick led to another penalty corner. This time he was on the mark, giving Australia the lead.

Two minutes later, however, Ireland pulled off the equaliser. Eugene Magee penetrated into the striking zone from the left top and passed to Shane O’Donoghue, who collected it and with the same momentum tapped in, making it 1-1.

The second quarter didn’t see much action. Australia had more ball possession and earned two penalty corners, but failed to convert both.

After getting into attacking mode in the second quarter, Australia showed their class in patches. In the 33rd minute, Australia’s Timothy Brand took a pass from Blake Govers and pushed it in. The first shot was saved, but he calmly controlled and reverse-hit the rebound (2-1).

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 19:52 IST