FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup for Men 2023: Korea salvages Asian pride

Asia Cup champions Korea salvaged Asian pride by becoming the continent’s sole representative in the last eight round of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 at iconic Kalinga Stadium on Monday. Koreans stroked out the American challenge in an exciting shootout.

Trailing 3-5 till the 47th minute, Koreans not only fought back to restore parity but also managed to beat their South American opponents in the battle of penalty shootout winning 3-2 to become the only Asian team to enter quarter-finals. Defeat for Argentina in the penalty shootout meant the end of the American challenge for a medal in the mega event.

In fact the last crossover game was a battle of continental survival. Both Korea and Argentina had been the last representatives of their continents playing the last crossover game.While the other Asian challengers, including the hosts India and Malaysia, were beaten in similar shootouts in the first round of crossovers on Sunday, Korea made the difference. The fourth Asian team in the contest, Asian Games champions Japan, had run out of medal contention by losing its all three pool games. Besides Argentina,the other American nation,   debutants Chile, too, like Japan, lost all its pool games to go out of medal reckoning.

Earlier, Germany pumped five goals with a sole goal reply from France in another crossover game decided on Monday.

Korea has completed the quarter-final lineup as the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, England had qualified directly. They have been joined by Germany, New Zealand, Spain and Korea. Belgium, Germany and Korea come from pool B.

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The Korean-Argentina game turned out to be the “best game of the tournament” so far. In a titanic battle of supremacy in penalty corners, the Koreans not only matched their more fancied opponents but also held their fort well in the last six minutes and survived two penalty corners.

Argentina had taken the lead in the 8th minute through Marco Casella’s field goal. By scoring in the 18th minute (Sunghyum Kim) and 20th minute (Junwoo Jeong), Korea were in lead for a short while before Argentina came back strongly and scored twice, first through a brilliant field goal in the 21st minute by Nicolas Keenan before Nicholas della Torres scored first of two penalty corner goals in the 24th minute.

Leading 3-2 at the breather, Korea restored parity through dependable drag flicker Jonghyun Jang who twuice brought back his team into the game with direct conversions. It was his assist that help[ed Korea to restore parity in the 56th minute when skipper  Nam Yong Lee latched on his flick to score the 10th goal of the match to make the score 5-5. Earl;ier Nicolas della Torres (41st  minute) and  Nicolas Keenan (47th minute) had raised hopes of the South Americans win by extending the lead to 5-3. But the Koreans had different plans and they rallied back strongly to make the score 5-5 in the  56th minute.

In the penalty shootout, Koreans held their nerve to outsmart their American opponents 3-2 for a splendid win.

Prabhjot Singh

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