Stakes set to rise against Spain after men’s HWL group stages

Hockey World League Semi-Final
Ireland 0 Germany 2 (T Grambusch, M Zwicker)
Craig Fulton’s Irish men’s team will face a date with Spain in their first chance at landing a 2018 World Cup spot as the preliminary phase of the Hockey World League ended with a 2-0 loss to Germany in Johannesburg.

That tie will take place on Wednesday when the stakes of the tournament ramps up significantly and the coach feels his side is in decent shape after wins over South Africa and Egypt.

Ireland’s Neal Glassey in possession. Pic: FIH/Getty

“I was really happy with out performance today; we pressed the Germans well and created some nice chances in the first half,” he said after the tie.

“Obviously we are not happy to have lost the game but we are in a good place finishing the group stages.”

Barring a four-goal win, Ireland’s destiny looked set for third place in the group and that outcome never looked likely in an intense defensive battle.

As such, penalty corners were key with Germany scoring the one that they earned via Tom Grambusch picking a low line into the right of the backboard from the top of the circle.

Ireland, meanwhile, had four corners but struggled with the grain of the pitch which saw the ball skip up nastily in front of the trapper. It meant Shane O’Donoghue was not able to get a clean shot off while a switch move to negate the issue also went awry.

The Olympic bronze medalists had the edge of the remainder of the first half with Moritz Trompertz shooting just over while Niklas Wellen drew a good stop from David Harte. The Irish goalkeeper and captain was returning to action after following concussion protocols to take his spot between the posts.

Stephen Cole attempts to get away from Jan-Philipp Rabente and Marco Miltkau. Pic: FIH/Getty

The second half proved even tighter than the close-knit first with no shot of note coming in the third quarter while there was just one a piece in the closing 15 minutes. Jeremy Duncan was denied by Mark Appel’s face-guard at close quarters, the Kilkenny man not quite getting enough lift on his shot.

Germany’s only chance, though, was converted by Martin Zwicker as he made the best of a good umpiring advantage to flick in off the top of Harte’s shoulder. With Germany assured of top spot in the group and Ireland out of range of second place, it made for a tepid closing 10 minutes.

And so, with wins over South Africa and Egypt, Ireland complete the group to their pre-tournament ranking. Spain, as a quarter-final opponent, does not represent the worst opponent – a side ranked lower than Ireland who were beaten 4-1 last month at the Hamburg Masters though they impressed in patches against both New Zealand and Australia.

Jonny Bell battles for the ball. Pic: FIH/Getty

Attention turns to the Irish women on Tuesday and a huge task against the world number three side Argentina in the same quarter-final scenario. They are in action at 12.30pm (Irish time) in Johannesburg.

Upset the odds and they will qualify directly for the World Cup for the first time since 2002; lose and they will go into the fifth to eighth place playoffs where they could also earn a ticket.

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, M Bell, C Cargo, A Sothern, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, J McKee, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S Cole
Subs: J Bell, M Nelson, N Glassey, S Murray, J Duncan, S Loughrey, J Carr

Germany: M Appel, M Muller, L Windfeder, M Grambusch, M Trompertz, T Herzbruch, J-P Rabente, T Grambusch, M Miltkau, B Furk, N Wellen
Subs: J Gomoll, C Ruhr, D-E Linnekogel, M Zwicker, J Meyer, T Walter, F Weinke

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