It was utter joy for the Ireland women’s squad and the men’s national team of France but the biggest plaudits will go to the history-making Wales’ men’s team who defied the rankings to qualify for the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup for the first time and won the event in front of their hugely supportive home fans.
Ireland women (FIH World Ranking: 8) put a halt to the dreams of Wales women’s national team (WR:26) joining the men’s team in achieving world cup qualification after the Irish team took top spot at the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup 2022 – European Qualifier 2021.
Ireland, who were the top ranked team at the event in Pisa, Italy, will now be competing at the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup, which takes place in Netherlands and Spain next year.
The silver medallists from the 2018 World Cup withstood a feisty performance from Wales to beat the lower ranked team by a narrow 2-1 scoreline. The hero was Anna O’Flanagan who scored twice. Wales answered through Isabelle Howell and then piled on the pressure to get the equaliser.
Irish hearts beat a little faster as Niamh Carey received a yellow card in the 57th minute, but Ireland have by now garnered a lot of experience on the world stage at major events and held onto the lead until the final whistle.
In the earlier classification matches, Scotland (WR: 22) beat Belarus (WR: 21) to take third; Italy (WR:17) delighted the home fans when they triumphed in a shoot-out after their match against Russia (WR:19) finished 2-2; and France (WR:28) ended their campaign with a 4-2 win over Poland (WR: 24).
Where the women’s competition all led to just one coveted world cup qualification place, two spots were available from the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 - European Qualifier 2021 in Cardiff, Wales.
This meant Wales (WR:18) and France (WR:12) went into the finals of the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 – European Qualifier 2021, knowing they had both qualified for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela in 2023. For Wales this is a historic moment as the Welsh side has never qualified for a FIH World Cup before. France will be making their fourth appearance at the event.
To earn their place in the final, Wales beat Ireland (WR:13) via a shoot-out as their semi-final match ended 1-1. France had earlier beaten Austria (WR:20) 4-1.
The final itself was a nail-biting affair, played out at a tempo and ferocity that showed both teams were determined to leave Cardiff with a 100 per cent record. In the event, it was Wales who took the honours with goals from Luke Hawker and Rupert Shipperley. France had taken an early 1-0 lead through Gaspard Baumgarten.
In the classification matches, Poland (26) beat Italy (WR:23) 3-2 in a shoot-out after nothing could separate the teams as the match ended 1-1. That victory meant Poland finished in seventh place. Scotland took fifth place after they beat Russia 4-2 and Austria won the third place spot after beating Ireland 4-3 in a shoot-out after the hard-fought match ended 3-3.
Fiona Burnet of Scotland, Ireland’s Anna O’Flanagan and Julia Sartakova from Russia shared the top goal scorer title with 4 goals apiece. In the men’s competition that honour went to Cameron Golden of Scotland.
FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup Spain and Netherlands 2022 – European Qualifier 2021
Ireland - qualified
FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar & Rourkela – European Qualifier 2021
Wales - qualified
France - qualified