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Ireland need a draw in crunch World Cup clash with England

 

By Graham Hamilton

World No.8 Spain are the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup finals being staged in India - and Ireland coach Alexander Cox is determined his players won't be the second when they take on rivals England this afternoon (1.30pm).

Cox has been working on a number of issues on the training ground over the past two days and he wants his players to finally put the record straight by recording their first win in a World Cup tournament since 1978.

Yes, it has been 40 long years since an Irish men's team won at this level, and that was a 3-0 success against Italy in Buenos Aires - and unless they can conjure up a positive result against England in Bhubaneswar, that lengthy wait could be extended.

"The England game is very important, as it was always going to be, but we know what we need to do and are entirely focused on that," Cox said.

The Spanish were left gutted at an early exit. They squandered a two-goal lead against New Zealand and the 2-2 draw left them needing the lowest ranked team - France - to lose to Olympic champions Argentina.

But the French stunned the World No.2 with an attacking performance that saw them remarkably take a 4-1 lead before finishing 5-3 winners to finish second in their pool, and so the Spanish become the first major casualties of the tournament.

The ramifications of that are now there to see.

Whoever loses the Ireland-England showdown today will become the second team to be eliminated.

But if the Green Machine draw or win, they are almost certainly going to finish second in their pool and can look forward to facing New Zealand in the crossover play-offs on Monday.

The only way they could end up facing France is if China spring a major surprise and get a positive result against world champions Australia in this morning's encounter (11.30am).

England know a win takes them into the play-offs and eliminates Ireland, but a draw might be sufficient for them providing China lose their game by three or more goals, which is a possibility.

There's no doubt the Irish have impressed in the City of Temples where they held world champions Australia to a 2-1 scoreline and drew 1-1 with China.

The coach couldn't believe what was happening as his side squandered a bagful of opportunities against China and that's why he's hoping to solve the problem that saw the Irish create so many chances but convert only one.

It's certainly going to be an intriguing game, especially with three Ulstermen in the England team including their captain, Cookstown's Ian Sloan.

To date, the Irish party has avoided the anticipated stomach problems, but players have been aware of the many bugs around the stadium, some even getting under keeper David Harte's helmet!

"The bugs seem to come out at dusk," said midfielder Chris Cargo. "But it's a wonderful experience and I don't want it to end just yet."

Meanwhile, Pegasus and Ards are through to the women's Denman Ulster Shield semi-finals.

Pegasus romped to a 9-2 win over Banbridge to top Pool A, while Ards can't be caught in Pool B after Dungannon and Randalstown fought out a 2-2 draw.

In Pool D, Belfast Harlequins need a point from their final game with Lisnagarvey tomorrow to progress after coming from behind to beat Lurgan 2-1 at Deramore, while Ireland World Cup star Katie Mullan was on target for Ballymoney in a 5-2 win over Garvey.

Ulster Elks look favourites to progress from Pool C after a 3-1 away win over Mossley.

World Cup finals (India): Pool A: Spain 2 (A Beltran, A Iglesias) New Zealand 2 (H Phillips, K Russell); Argentina 3 (G Peillat 2, L Martinez) France 5 (H Genestet, V Charlet, A Coisne, G Baumgarten, F Goyet)

Denman Ulster Shield: Pool A: Pegasus 9 (L McKee, T Doherty 2, A Speers 2, M Harvey, S Thompson, C Harvey, H Craig) Banbridge 2 (P Haugh, S McCullough). Pool B: Dungannon 2 (L Cassells, L White) Randalstown 2 (K Doherty, E Clyde). Pool C: Mossley 1 (R McCullough) Ulster Elks 3 (J Allen, H Irwin, L Paul). Pool D: Belfast Harlequins 2 (A Edwards, A Graham) Lurgan 1 (J-A Reid); Ballymoney 5 (K Minihan 2, O Mullan, K Mullan, N Parke) Lisnagarvey 3 (R Chambers, K McIlwaine, C Gillard)

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