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Ireland women are well placed for Olympic spot

Edge: Sean Dancer is happy with home advantage
Edge: Sean Dancer is happy with home advantage

By John Flack

Ireland's women have retained their world ranking of eighth following the European Championship series in Antwerp but their male counterparts are on a downward spiral.

Alexander Cox's team look set to fall one or two places to either 12th or 13th on the global list following their nightmare campaign in which they finished bottom and got relegated.

Ireland failed to win any of their five matches and the ultimate humiliation came in a 4-0 defeat to Wales at the weekend - a side who went into the tournament ranked 25th.

With their demotion and slide down the rankings, they could possibly face England in the upcoming Olympic qualifiers.

As things stand, either Spain, Canada or New Zealand could also provide the opposition in the two-legged contest for a place in Tokyo with the draw to take place next month.

With just the Oceanic Championship to come and the world No.1 nation Australia the hot favourites to finish ahead of New Zealand, it's unlikely the roster of possible opponents will change after the updated rankings are confirmed.

Ireland have pencilled in warm-up games away to newly-crowned European champions Belgium and France in the build-up to the qualifiers with the precise dates and venues still to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, China are no longer a possible adversary for Ireland's women in what will be a home double-header Olympic qualifier in late October or early November.

The Chinese have been elevated to the pot of teams who will have a home draw, having leapfrogged Belgium, who finished sixth at the Europeans, losing 2-1 to Ireland along the way.

Belgium have now replaced China in the list of possible opponents for Sean Dancer's team, with Korea and the United States also possibilities.

Head coach Dancer is delighted that Ireland will have home advantage in the two-legged qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, irrespective of the opposition.

The Australian said: "The whole competition is set up to be cut-throat. We're under no illusion, it'll be a very hard contest.

"The pleasing thing for us is getting to play at home which we pretty much assured from our results in Antwerp.

"The home support will be a key part of us being successful and the girls will really thrive off that."

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