Ireland will face a stern test against China in today’s Hockey World Cup Pool B clash at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, but it is one that they can come through, according to former international Lisa Jacob.
Alexander Cox’s side opened with an impressive, albeit losing, performance against world champions Australia at the India-hosted event, losing 2-1 to the number one ranked side in the world.
And now Ireland face China in their second encounter, push back at 1:30pm (Irish time), knowing that victory over the Asian side will almost certainly hand them a place in the knock-out stages following China’s 2-2 draw with England in the other pool game.
"I think they can draw many positives from their opening match," said Jacob, speaking on Morning Ireland. "Australia are the winners of the last two world cups and are looking to become the first team to win three world cups in a row.
"So to be 2-1 at the end of the game against the number one ranked side in the world, and to have that tension at the end of the game was a real positive.
"They defended and competed really, really well throughout the game and they scored an excellent goal so they will take huge amounts of positives from that game going forward."
China caused a real shock in their Pool B opener as they came from behind to grab a late equaliser against England in that 2-2 game.
And with Australia expected to top the pool, the race is on for the two cross-over berths available to second and third-placed finishers in the four-team group.
But first, Ireland must overcome the lower-ranked China side, and while Jacob believes that they offer a real threat from the set-piece, the former Ireland international is confident that Ireland can prevail.
"China will be a really, really tricky opponent," added Jacob.
"They are ranked 17th so they are one of the lowest ranked sides in the tournament and they are actually very, very inexperienced.
"The average caps the players would have would be about 30, and for Ireland that would be over 135, so in terms of per player, the Irish team would have about four years more experience across the pitch.
"The last time that Ireland played China was about three years ago and they won that game 6-0 but only about one or two of this current side were playing at the time.
"China played England and it finished in a 2-2 draw, which was considered a huge shock.
And they have a very, very dangerous drag flicker from their set piece, so Ireland will have to be really wary.
"It will be difficult but I would expect them to pull through."
And should Ireland secure the win, they can turn their attention to the final pool game against England, where they will be battling to finish second, which would hand them a more favourable cross-over fixture, playing one of the other pools’ third-placed finishers.
"It is huge. With England drawing with China, if Ireland could beat them today, it would put them in a really good position to come third in the pool, which would mean that they would go into the cross-over.
"And if they beat China today, and presuming that Australia beat England, then they would probably just need a draw against England in their final pool game [to finish second]."
Follow live updates from the Ireland v China Hockey World Cup encounter on RTE.ie and the News Now App from 1:15pm.