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Wilson confident Ireland can net semi-final spot


Staying grounded: Ulster and Ireland's Zoe Wilson isn't getting carried away as the girls in green eye a World Cup semi-final
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The Ireland women's hockey team are daring to dream ahead of tomorrow's World Cup quarter-final against India in London (6pm).

Last night, the squad, including six from Ulster, and the backroom staff watched with interest as India defeated Italy 3-0 to book a rematch with the Green Army.

Last week, Graham Shaw's team beat the Asians 1-0 in a tight contest to clinch a place in the knockout stages.

Ireland have been the tournament's shock troopers, having topped their group despite being the second-lowest ranked nation in the 16-team tournament.

Many higher-rated teams have already gone home, but Ireland are determined that their magnificent run won't come to an end tonight.

However, Ulster's Zoe Wilson, at 21 the second youngest player in the squad, wisely insists that the sole focus will be on the game with India.

The Belfast Harlequins defender said: "We had a really tough pool game with them in the blistering 36 degree heat that was very challenging, so it's going to be equally difficult again.

"Quarter-finals are never easy and, as this tournament has shown so far, anything can happen on the day.

"But overall, I think we have competed well and our defending has been outstanding from our front-line right through to Ayeisha (McFerran) in goal.

"Attacking-wise, I think we have looked threatening on the counter, especially with the speed we possess up front so, while we'll respect them, we won't fear India."

Wilson broke into the squad at the age of 17 when she was still a schoolgirl at Ballyclare High and she says it's beyond her wildest dreams to be in a World Cup quarter-final just four years later.

She added: "It wasn't really until I made the senior team that I started to have aspirations of actually playing in the World Cup or Olympics.

"It is quite surreal to know I am going to play in a quarter-final at a World Cup in a sold-out stadium, and it's hard not to be excited. Dreams are made of this.

"The whole squad has been treasuring every moment and playing hockey on a world stage with a great bunch of girls is an unforgettable experience."

While tonight's game is naturally the immediate priority, Ireland have a massive incentive to overcome India as they would then meet either Germany or Spain in Saturday's semi-final - two teams they have already beaten during their build-up.

Wilson added: "I don't think we can be getting too far ahead of ourselves but even to reach the World Cup quarter-finals is an outstanding achievement."

Goals from Sophie Bray and Lily Owsley gave England a 2-0 win over Korea and their quarter-final against Netherlands will take the 8.15pm slot tomorrow, while Ireland's game moves forward to 6pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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Staying grounded: Ulster and Ireland's Zoe Wilson isn't getting carried away as the girls in green eye a World Cup semi-final