Women’s Hockey World Cup: Ireland v Chile, Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam, Tuesday, 1.0 – RTÉ News channel and BT Sport 1
Having opened their World Cup campaign on Saturday with a defeat by the Netherlands, the world’s top-ranked nation, Ireland now take on tournament outsiders Chile, the lowest ranked team out of the 16 qualifiers.
A win for Ireland would all but guarantee a top-three finish in the pool, the requirement to progress in the tournament, regardless of their result in Wednesday’s final pool game against Germany.
But while it’s a game Ireland will expect to win – Chile rank five places below them in the world list – they’ll be wary enough of a side that made a splash at January’s Pan American Cup, when they beat the United States on penalty strokes in the semi-finals to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.
They then made Argentina, ranked at two in the world, work hard for their 4-2 victory in the final, the teams level at 2-2 until the final seven minutes.
And eight of the current Irish squad will have memories of their 2019 trip to Santiago where they only managed to beat their hosts once in a four-match series, Chile winning one of the games 3-0, the other two ending in draws.
Among their scorers that day was their vastly experienced captain Camila Caram, one of three players in their squad with over 200 caps, another five having passed the century mark. The team is coached by Sergio Vigil, who was in charge of Argentina’s women when they won the World Cup 20 years ago.
They’re the warning signs, then, but coach Sean Dancer will be confident that if Ireland play to their potential they can win this one, not least if Chile give up as many chances, including eight penalty corners, as they did in their 4-1 defeat by Germany on Saturday.
Germany went on to lose 3-1 to the Dutch on Sunday, meaning that if Ireland can beat Chile, then Wednesday’s game against the Germans is likely to decide who finishes second behind the Netherlands, and who takes third.
Either way, the ‘reward’ will be a cross-over game, the prize for the winners of that a place in the quarter-finals, against a team from Pool D, which is made up of Australia, Belgium, Japan and South Africa. Australia and Belgium, ranked at three and five in the world respectively, won their opening games and meet on Tuesday night, but it’s too early to call how that pool will play out.
The same applies to Pool B where the teams have played just one game each, New Zealand drawing with China, while England were held by India.
Argentina have taken maximum points from their first two games in Pool C, with co-hosts Spain and South Korea likely to fill the next two slots.
Needless to say, though, Ireland aren’t looking beyond Chile, knowing that a slip-up against the South Americans could cost them dearly. From the moment the draw was made, it was the game they targeted because, as Róisín Upton, put it, “they’re the only team ranked below us in the pool”.
“This game excites us because you’d expect to possess the ball for longer periods than we did against the Dutch. I think we’ve come a long way in terms of our attack, what we can do on the ball and the chances that we can create.
“So I’m excited to see the likes of Michelle Carey and Caoimhe Perdue pushing through midfield, with Katie Mullan back up at centre forward, and just seeing the opportunities we can create.”