Lucknow (10 Dec, 2016): India rode on the back of a 5-3 victory over England to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016 on Saturday.
The Junior Hockey World Cup provides India a chance to end their 15-year-old title drought from Group D in the event. The only time India won the Junior World Cup was way back in 2001 in Hobart, Australia.
The hosts is only the second team to qualify for the quarterfinals so far after six-time champions Germany crossed the line first from Group C with wins over Spain (2-1) and New Zealand (2-1) respectively at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium here.
An early goal from England’s Jack Clee silenced the more than 5,000 Indian fans but goals from Parvinder Singh and Armaan Qureshi gave India a 2-0 half time lead. The hosts, who are one of the favourites in the Junior World Cup, upped the ante after the breather with strikes from Harmanpreet Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Varun Kumar.
England, who finished fourth twice (1997 and 2001) in the Junior World Cup, were fully charged despite the setback and scored two goals in a late fight back through Will Calnan and Edward Horler but India held on victory till the end.
The Indians face South Africa on Monday in their last match and hope to maintain an unblemished record of three consecutive wins going into the quarterfinals.
“I felt we played quite well. There were other good chances we had and I thought we could have scored more. But I am very happy with our performance,” said England head coach, Jon Bleby.
“India is a tough team to play at home. We should have kept them at bay after the 1-1 equaliser a little bit longer and kept them in frustration. Against India you have to defend very well. Don’t get caught dribbling the ball too much.. I felt at times we got caught a little bit,” added Bleby.
South Africa kept alive their hopes of a quarter-final berth in Group D with a 3-1 win over Canada. Brandon Pereira gave the Canadians the lead with a well-executed penalty corner, but strikes from Kyle Lion-Cachet, Ryan Crowe and Walter Pfaff ensured the South Africans stayed in the hunt. India leads the group with six points while England and South Africa are second and third in the pool with three-equal points respectively.
England and South Africa will decide the second spot in the group for the quarterfinals. The Englishmen play Canada on Tuesday (13 Dec) to wrap up their fixtures.
Austria and Australia also claimed significant wins in Group A. The Austrians bounced back from an opening game 1-1 drawn match against Argentina to score a remarkable 5-2 victory over Korea. Coach Cedric d’Sousa side produced another disciplined performance with Pit Rudofsky (two goals), Marcel Hilbert, Oliver Binder and Franz Lindengrun scoring to put the Austrians top of the pool.
The Koreans scored through penalty strokes by Park Joohan.
“When we performed five weeks ago our quality wasn’t there, but our preparations and performances here in India have been fantastic,” said Austria’s Florian Streyrer. “It’s unbelievable. The fighting spirit is there, as everyone could see, and now we need to rest and recover before a tough match against Australia.”
With just one point from two matches, Argentina’s title challenge hangs in the balance after going down 2-1 against Australia on Saturday. Matthew Bird’s opener was cancelled out by Argentine captain Maico Casella but a late penalty stroke from Olympian Blake Govers gave the Burras victory.
Day four action on Sunday sees another exciting round of Group C and D matches. The Germans take on Japan in the final run of their fixtures and Spain battles New Zealand. The winner of this match joins Germany into the quarterfinals.
In Group D, late entry Malaysia aims to foil Egypt’s hopes to keep their own challenge in the event alive after going down 7-1 against the Netherlands on Friday while the Dutch and Belgians go into top class action.