Hockey World Cup 2018: China vs Ireland - 3 Talking points
- A brief analysis of the factors that influenced the outcome of the Pool B match between Ireland and China.
Not for nothing did Aussie coach Colin Batch state that the Odisha World Cup may well be the closest ever - and what's more, Dutch coach Max Caldas backs that very claim in spite of the fact that his team made short work of Malaysia in their opener.
Ireland, who fought valiantly against World Champions Australia before going down narrowly in their opener, were forced to split points with minnows China, in spite of doing pretty much everything right except getting the ball into the net twice.
It was heartbreaking for the sizeable number of Irish fans who had travelled half-way around the world to make it to the Kalinga Stadium only see their team having to settle for a draw when they possibly deserved better.
The Chinese, however, would argue just as vehemently that it was not bad fortune that robbed the Irish of two vital extra points but some dogged, determined, and tidy defending which caused the Green Machine to repeatedly falter at the periphery of the goalmouth.
The Irish created numerous chances, getting the better of the Chinese defence time and again. Crosses from both flanks were fired in across the face of goal but missed the mark by inches on more than one occasion.
Was it, indeed, providence that enabled the Chinese to come through unscathed, or did Kim Sang-Ryul's side deserve the crucial one point which now gives them hope of making it to the knockouts?
Let us take a look at 3 factors that may have been significant in determining the ultimate course of this match.
#3 Kim's boys lunge, strain, and play a double-team to deny the Irish
On the face of it, the Irish did look quite superior and put the Chinese defence under enormous pressure for large periods. Eugene Magee powered his way to the backline and angled a number of delectable crosses in which his teammates should have lapped up with glee.
Instead, the passes always seemed to be just a wee bit too far, and sometimes a wee bit too fast for the Irish strikers to pick up. When they did manage to latch on to the crosses, the shots on goal were inches wide, even on rare occasions when Wang Caiyu was woefully out of position.
A closer look at events within the Chinese circle will reveal that it was Kim's defenders who lunged, stretched, and strained every muscle to prevent the Irish from taking the shots on goal in a manner that they would have relished.
As a result, Ireland's men up front were unable to add the necessary power to their shots and also ended up shooting wide after being hustled at the point of taking the hits. Kim's boys double-teamed near the backline a few times to steal the ball from Matthew Nelson and Alan Sothern just when they managed to get into dangerous positions.
Yet, it was not just desperate defending that got the Chinese home - the men in red were tidy as well.