Belarus dent Irish World Cup hopes

Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes are hanging by a thread after they were stunned 2-0 by Belarus at the World League 2 in Valencia yesterday.

New Irish coach Darren Smith had highlighted the eastern Europeans, ranked seven places below Ireland in 21st, as potential dark horses but this defeat was of Ireland’s own making.

They had oceans of possession but rarely tested the Belarus keeper in a poor-quality game riddled with double turnovers, while their short corner unit also didn’t function. The same couldn’t be said for the Belarusians, who turned up the heat with a short corner deflection by Ryta Batura midway through the half before ending the game in the ascendancy, scoring through Strayezhka after another after a series of set-pieces.

Ireland are the highest-ranked side in the five-team tournament, with the top two advancing, but Spain — who they play Saturday — are favourites on home turf. The girls in green must now win that game and also get three points against 17th-ranked Italy on Sunday to advance to World League round 3 in June, which doubles as a World Cup qualifier.

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