The FIH have officially released the pools and schedule for the Odisha World Cup in Bhubaneswar (November 28th- December 16th). The Green Machine find themselves in Pool B alongside world number 1 side Australia, England and China.
Ireland’s World Cup campaign gets under way on November 30th against the world number 1 and defending world champions Australia. The Kookaburras will be without talisman and 4-time Olympian Mark Knowles who has announced he will retire after the upcoming Commonwealth Games. But they are a potent threat with the experienced Jake Wheton and the goal scoring prowess of Blake Govers who has 48 goals in his 57 caps. The two sides don’t meet all that frequently but they will face off in the upcoming Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia on March 3rd.
Ireland’s second match comes on December 4th against China, currently ranked 17th in the world, they beat higher ranked Korea at World League in London to finish in 8th position.
The Green Machine’s final pool match is on December 7th against England, a side they will also meet at the Azlan Shah on March 6th. The two teams are familiar foes and most recently met at the European Championships in Amsterdam last August where England narrowly edged the encounter 2-1. Prior to that Ireland put 4 past the English at Lee Valley to earn an historic European bronze medal in 2015.
Commenting on the announcement, head coach Craig Fulton said “We are happy with our World Cup draw, it’s a competitive pool and we have played all the teams recently which is a positive. There are 3-day breaks between our pool matches which will take some getting used to with lots of down time as there are only two games a day on the schedule”.
Fulton expressed his dismay at the new World Cup structure “I don’t agree with not playing any classification matches which is a real shame in this World Cup. Worst case scenario is you could potentially only play 3 pool games and then go home, when in the past you played 7 games to a final position and that’s real value for money”.