Ireland men’s head coach Greg Yelverton was satisfied that his side had achieved the first objective he had set them to get out of their group and progress to the quarter-finals at the World University Games in Naples.
A goal from skipper Alan O’Sullivan against Uruguay on Sunday night in their final group game was enough to see the Irish hold on and come away with a 1-1 draw to top Group A ahead of South Korea and the South Americans and set up a quarter-final meeting with Russia on Tuesday evening (8.0 Irish).
Goalscorer O’Sullivan, a graduate of DCU who is now studying for a master’s degree at IT Carlow, is something of a World University Games veteran having previously played in the 2015 and 2017 tournaments and the Warrenpoint striker proved to be a talisman for this Ireland team in Naples.
His two second-half penalties coupled with Cillian Duffy’s header saw Ireland come from behind to defeat South Korea 3-2 in their opening fixture and give Yelverton’s side the perfect start to the tournament.
The Ireland boss was satisfied with the performances so far, but will now fully focus on defeating Russia and claiming a first-ever semi-final place for an Ireland men’s team at these games.
“We know Russia are a good team. They finished runners up to Japan in a strong group where they beat Argentina 2-0 but went down 4-1 to the highly-fancied Japanese. They have a long tradition at World University Games but we’ll go through the videos of their group games and see what we can do.
“The Uruguay game was a big test for us as we only needed to draw or to lose by one goal to go through. We knew they were an aggressive outfit so our initial strategy was to defend and nullify their attack. However things didn’t work out for us in the opening half so we changed the formation after the break, that helped us and we did enough to hang on for the draw.” explained Yelverton.
Meanwhile, defender Rob Slevin an ever-present in both group games and one of four UCC representatives in the Ireland squad is content that the team are fulfilling their targets and will be well prepared to meet the challenge of Russia.
“We’ll be well up for this game. Whatever the Russians bring we know that we’ll bring our spirit and fight and I think we’ll do well.
“At the start of this campaign, our objective was to get out of the group and qualify for the quarter-finals so now that we have achieved this the mood in the squad is positive and we’re all set to take the next step and who knows maybe come home with a medal of some colour,” said Slevin.
Tuesday, July 9th
World University Games (Naples) – Men’s (Quarter-Final)
Ireland v Russia, Stadio Pinto, Caserta (8.0 Irish).