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Ireland valiantly push Argentina all the way in bid to reach World Cup dreamland

Ireland now go into the playoffs with a place in next summer’s tournament at stake.

Ireland 1

Argentina 2

DEFEAT TO THE number three side in the world in Argentina may have closed one Hockey World Cup qualification door, but Ireland’s bid to reach next year’s tournament remains very much alive.

Ireland pushed Argentina all the way in their World League quarter-final in Johannesburg this afternoon but fell just short of booking a direct ticket to England with a 2-1 loss.

Graham Shaw’s side produced a valiant performance and asked serious questions of Argentina, particular in the closing stages, as they looked to force the game into a shootout.

As it was, a two-goal deficit surrendered inside the opening 40 minutes was too much to overturn and Ireland’s World Cup fate now lies in the playoffs later this week, with a fifth-placed finish guaranteeing a qualification berth for the first time since 2002.

After advancing through the group stages in South Africa, Ireland knew they would face their stiffest assignment of the campaign to date but conjured a brave defensive effort to keep Argentina at bay for large period.

The resistance was eventually broken in the 25th minute when Merino crashed home from close range after an Irish defensive error had created the opening. The second came shortly after the break via a penalty corner, Argentina’s first of the game.

Just three minutes later, however, Ireland were back in the game as Anna O’Flanagan won a penalty corner and Roisin Upton dragged it past goalkeeper Belen Succi.

Ireland pushed for a late equaliser and despite holding firm at one end, were unable to find the goal which would force a shootout.

“We are obviously disappointed losing that game. We started a little tentative and allowed them to control too many phases in the first half,” coach Shaw said afterwards.

“The second half was a lot better and we put them under a lot more pressure as a result.

“We are very confident going into the 5th-8th playoffs and looking forward to the challenge.”

Ireland will face either Germany or South Africa in their first playoff match on Thursday while the men will have the chance to book their place in the World Cup when they go head-to-head with Spain in their quarter-final tomorrow.

Victory for Craig Fulton’s side would see them automatically qualify for the sport’s showpiece event for the first time since 1990.

Ireland: A McFerran, K Mullan (captain), S McCay, E Tice, G Pinder, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke.

Subs: G O’Flanagan, Y O’Byrne, N Evans, E Beatty, S Loughran, R Upton, L Colvin

Argentina: B Succi, M Cavallero, M Fernandez, D Merino (captain), A Habif, M Granatto, F Habif, R Sanchez, L von der Heyde, N Barrionuevo, J Gomes.

Subs: A Gorzelany, E Trinchinetti, A Alonso, M Campoy, M Ortiz, J Jankunas, M Mutio.

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