Ireland look to turn over Spain again and create some new history
Sean Dancer’s side need a win due to Spain’s better goals scored record
Naomi Carroll of Ireland celebrates scoring against Scotland with team-mates during the EuroHockey Championships im Amserdam. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
EuroHockey Championships: Ireland v Spain, Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam, Wednesday, 11.30am Irish time – Live on RTÉ 2 from 11am
Having reached the World Cup final in 2018 before qualifying for the Olympic Games for the very first time, this group of Irish players are no strangers to making hockey history.
On Wednesday in Amsterdam they have a chance to add another first to their list of achievements when they take on Spain in their final pool game at the EuroHockey Championships – a win would put them in to the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time, as well as securing qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
If it wasn’t for a late consolation goal by Laura Barrios for Spain in their 7-1 drubbing by the Netherlands on Monday evening a draw would have been enough for Ireland to reach the last four, but while the teams are level on points and goal difference, Spain’s superior ‘goals for’ column means a point is all they need to advance.
Having met in five friendlies in Murcia back in January, the teams will be more than familiar with each other, but while it’s usually advisable not to pay much heed to the results from such games – especially when key players are absent, as they were for both sides in that series – Ireland can still take confidence from the fact that they won two and drew two of the five meetings, scoring 14 goals in all.
Goals, though, have been in short supply for Ireland so far in this tournament, the Dutch holding them scoreless in last weekend’s 4-0 defeat before they managed just the one against Scotland. But they created plenty of chances in that game, coach Sean Dancer stressing the need for his players to be much more clinical in front of goal when opportunities arise against the Spanish, their penalty corners also needing a vast improvement.
Spain’s morale won’t have been lifted by their experience against the Dutch, although such is the form of the defending champions they look capable of trouncing any side they meet. And the Spanish pedigree in this tournament is a healthy one having reached at least the semi-finals in eight of the last 11 European Championships, winning bronze last time around. Ireland’s highest ever finish was fifth.
Ranked one place above Ireland in the world list, at seven, the Spanish, not least because they only need a draw, will be marginal favourites to prevail. But they were heavy favourites to get the better of Ireland in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, only to lose in that memorable shoot-out. Ireland will hope for another day that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.