World Number 1 Australia are placed in Group B of the Hockey World Cup alongside England, Ireland, and China. While China are ranked 17th as per the FIH rankings, Ireland are at 10, and England are at 7. Therefore, the Kookaburras should not have much trouble surpassing the challenges thrown at them by weaker opponents and move on comfortably to the Quarterfinal stages by topping their group. Right? Wrong.
No team playing at the World Cup can be taken lightly. Australia will be squaring off with Ireland in their first match of the World Cup, which also happens to be the first Pool B fixture. Ireland last made an appearance in the World Cup in 1990 and will be on a mission to prove themselves. It is a team which has been on the rise and are competent to give any team difficulty.
Alexander Cox and his troops went on to finish 10th in their first appearance at the 2016 Olympics which took place in Rio. They finished with a Bronze at the Euro Hockey Nations Championship and 6th at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March 2018.
Even though they finished last at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, they shocked one and all as they defeated the Indian side 3-2 in the group stages. However, Ireland suffered a 1-4 defeat to the mighty Australians in the same event in Malaysia. Nonetheless, they were fearless and gave a tough battle to all the other opponents they faced.
Shane O'Donoghue, who has the knack of scoring goals regularly, and Kirk Shimmins will be the two players to watch out for in Ireland's line-up, which is perfectly balanced with experienced and young players. Custodian David Harte, defenders Paul Gleghorne, and Conor Harte bring in the much-needed experience in the side.
Despite all these qualities of Ireland, the Kookaburras still have the edge. The Men in Yellow and Green won the Hockey World Cup in 2014 and 2010. They are a team which have reached the pinnacle in World Hockey and set a benchmark for the other teams.
Colin Batch and his formidable unit will be the favourites to defend their title 3rd time running. The Australian team is also the most decorated in the history of the sport and will be entering the competition on a high, having won the 2018 Champions Trophy in Breda earlier this year.
They also bagged the top spot at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at home in Gold Coast. Australia's forward Trent Mitton has been in sublime form and midfielder Daniel Beale is also regularly supplying the goods.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Tyler Lovell is at his very best and will try to ensure there is no leakage of goals. The Kookaburras are also a mix of young dynamism and experience with the latter being provided by the legendary Eddie Ockenden and Aran Zalewski in the midfield. There is no way, however, that the Men is Yellow and Green can underestimate Ireland.
Here is all you need to know about the upcoming match between Australia and Ireland:
Event: Men's Hockey World Cup 2018
Venue: Bhubaneswar, India
Date: 30 November 2018
Time: 5:00 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
India: Star Sports, Star Sports HD
UK: BT Sport
Australia: Fox Sports
New Zealand: Sky Sports (NZ)
South Africa: SuperSport
Live Streaming: Hotstar, FIH Official Youtube Channel
Live Updates: Sportskeeda
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