FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup for Men 2023: India, Malaysia go out of medal contention

The first day of crossovers produced drama aplenty as Spain and New Zealand sealed their quarterfinal berths with shoot-out wins, both in the sudden death stages, against Malaysia and India, respectively.

An eerie silence descended on the iconic Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar after Shamsher Singh muffed his chance in the sudden death of the penalty shootout against New Zealand in the second crossover game of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup on Sunday.

Overcoming 1-3 deficits, New Zealand stormed back into the game to draw level at 3-3 in the stipulated period before overthrowing the home team 5-4 in the penalty shootout. The first round of the penalties had, like the regulation period score, had ended in 3-3 stalemate.

It was in fact a day that the Asian teams would love to forget fast. Earlier in the first crossover, Malaysia also squandered the initial lead and advantage to lose 3-4 in the penalty shootout against Spain.

The first day of crossovers produced drama aplenty as Spain and New Zealand sealed their quarterfinal berths with shoot-out wins, both in the sudden death stages, against Malaysia and India, respectively. Spain will now take on Australia in the quarterfinals, while New Zealand will face Belgium, with both matches to be played in Bhubaneswar. Malaysia and India head into the 9-16 classification matches, which will take place in Rourkela.

India once again failed to break the home ground jinx of failing to advance to the medal round. Unlike the previous three occasions as hosts, this time the home team had been relegated to its lowest round of classification games. In 1982 in Bombay, it had just missed making the semi-final round. Even in 2018 at the same venue, India had lost in the quarterfinals

 Spain started building pressure over Malaysia  in the first quarter  but failed to forge ahead as Enrique Gonzalez hit the crossbar from a couple of metres out. Malaysia started to get on the front foot a bit more in the second quarter. No team was able to carve any real scoring opportunity in the  first 15 minutes.

The second half witnessed more action as Malaysia  settled down and started working out good moves.  A long pass from inside his own half by Faiz Jali found in form man Faizal Saari who received the ball in his stride just outside the Spanish circle and unleashed a powerful shot on the reverse to beat Adrian Rafi. The goal sprung Spain into action.

Two quick goals by Spain had the Malaysians under tremendous pressure. Spain equalised through a Marc Miralles penalty stroke in the 41st minute and snatched the lead a minute later as a mesmerising run by Pere Amat led to a cross which was turned into an empty goal by Gispert at the far post, leaving Malaysia to chase the game in the final quarter.

The final quarter started with Malaysia thinking it had equalised through Amirul Azahar inside 20 seconds, but Spain reviewed and a backstick in the build up to the goal reversed the goal. Three minutes later though Malaysia did score through Shello Silverius and there was no doubt about the validity of the goal this time, setting up an exciting final 10 minutes.  Shello, who got a platinum plate after he fractured his arm in the last Nations Cup Hockey Tournament in South Africa two months ago, was superb in his finish. Spain earned a flurry of penalty corners over the final minutes, but its attempted drag flicks were saved each time by a combination of good first rushing and calm keeping, taking the first knockout game of the event into a shoot-out!

The teams could not be separated through the first 5 attempts in the shoot-out as the game moved to sudden death. Marc Miralles scored his first for Spain and Mario Garin, who was brought on by the red sticks to keep in the shoot-outs, stepped up and saved the Malaysian attempt to earn his team the win and a spot in the quarterfinals!

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Marc Miralles, who was awarded player of the match and said: “Well played to Malaysia as well, we know this is a very tough way to lose a game. Really happy with our team’s performance throughout, coming back from a goal down to get the win and move on is great for us.”

 The home team raised false hopes with some good moves in the first quarter. In fact, it had taken a  comfortable 3-1 lead till the start of the fourth quarter but failed to keep its lead intact. The Kiwis were flawless in their penalty corner conversions while India, once again, fumbled with its penalty corner awards as it got 11 and scored only two, one direct shot by Varun Kumar and another off rebound by Sukhjeet Singh.

India enjoyed territorial advantage as well  as in ball possession. New Zealand  was  the first to get a good shot on target, but Sreejesh stepped  out in time to execute a save. Harmanpreet, who scored his first penalty corner goal in the game against Wales, nearly saw his first penalty corner break the goal-line, but a save on the line by Simon Child, kept the scores tied to end the first quarter.

New Zealand had a huge chance at the  start  of the second quarter, but the shot attempt by Morrison went narrowly wide and India capitalised soon with a quick counter, that was smashed in  by Lalit, who was smartly found on the counter by Shamsher. India added a second goal midway through the second quarter as a Harmanpreet drag flick was saved by the keeper, but the rebound looped up in the air and Sukhjeet was the first to get to it and smash the high volley into an open goal.

The black sticks had their best opportunity to score just before the half as Findlay found Child on the left baseline and his pass across the face of the Indian goal was tapped in by Sam Lane to bring New Zealand back into the game.

Both teams traded a goal each in the third quarter, with India scoring first through a Varun Kumar penalty corner that snuck through the legs of Dixon, but New Zealand pulled back to within one again with Kane Russell beating Sreejesh from a penalty corner of his own, setting up an incredible final quarter of action.

India retreated into the defence to begin the fourth quarter while New Zealand turned up the heat. India conceded a penalty corner in the 50th minute and while the attempted flick from Russell did not make the contact he wanted, the follow up shot by Lane was brilliantly turned in by Findlay, with his back to the goal. The final 10 minutes were filled with non-stop action as India failed to capitalise on its penalty corner opportunities, while Krishan Pathak was brilliant in stopping New Zealand shots on target, including once in the final second of the game to take the game to a shoot-out.

The shoot-out was a nervous affair all over again with 18 shoot-out attempts required to separate the two sides. Both New Zealand and India had 2 attempts where a goal would’ve won the game for them, but Hiha and Lane missed for New Zealand, while Harmanpreet and Sukhjeet missed their possible match winning attempts for India. On the 17th attempt, Sam Lane gave New Zealand the lead and Shamsher, who had missed once earlier, stepped up again, but his attempt was well saved by Hayward, giving New Zealand the win and sending them through to the quarterfinals, while India would go through  the 9-16 classification matches.

Sean Findlay, who  was awarded the player of the match,  said: “We did it the hard way, coming back from goals down and with the missed opportunities early in the shoot-out as well, but this team has great fighting spirit and we just gave it our all and it’s a great start to the knockout stage of the tournament.”

Prabhjot Singh

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