Lucknow (15 Dec, 2016): India overcame a gritty Spain 2-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men Lucknow 2016 at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Thursday.
Belgium, Germany and Australia also advanced to Saturday’s semi-finals. The Belgians overcame Argentina 4-1 in penalty shoot-out after 1-1 draw in regulation time, reigning champions Germany defeated England 4-2 and Australia ended Netherlands run here with 2-1 victory.
The semi-final set-up sees Belgium go head to head with Germany and India, who last won the Junior World Cup in 2001, meet Australia, the 1997 champions.
India was determined to impress the home fans and started brightly but it was Spain who ended up taking a 1-0 lead going into half time thanks to a penalty corner drag-flick from Marc Serrahima.
The Spaniards kept the dominant Indians at bay until the 57th minute when Simranjeet Singh finished off a penalty corner rebound to spark a deafening cheer from the crowd and with four minutes remaining a fine penalty corner effort from Harmanpreet Singh saw India into the final four.
Belgium was given a stern test by Argentina before eventually triumphing in a shoot-out. They had the better of the first half chances but found Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Bosso in fine form to make a series of excellent saves to keep the Red Cougars off the score-sheet.
Argentina went on the counter-attack throughout the first period and took the lead early in the second half when team captain Maico Casella smashed a volley off the underside of the crossbar from close range. The Belgians eventually got their equaliser when Victor Wegnez scored two minutes from the end to force the match into a shoot-out in which Belgian goalkeeper Loic van Doren excelled. He was beaten only once, with Nicholas Poncelet, Arthur de Sloover, Wegnez and Henri Raes scoring the goals to push Belgium into the semi-finals.
“It is a fantastic feeling,” said Belgium captain Wegnez after the match. “We have been working on shoot-outs a lot because we lost in the European Cup two years ago in the semi-final and also the bronze medal match against England, so it was very important for us and we did a fantastic job.”
Goals from Jan Schiffer and Lukas Windfeder gave Germany a 2-0 lead at the break before Florian Scholten made it 3-0 with 18 minutes of the match remaining.
England coach Jon Bleby removed his goalkeeper in the latter stages and it was a decision which was instantly rewarded, with competition top scorer Ed Horler netting twice in two minutes to drag the team back into the match before a breakaway goal from Olympian Timm Herzbruch sealed the victory for Germany.
“I was very concerned,” said Germany coach Valentin Altenburg, referring to England’s late rally. “You could see that the game slowed down, they scored a penalty corner and they were suddenly alive again. I think that we were a little bit too much in the semi-finals in our heads, so I was concerned. We really needed that fourth goal and I’m very happy that we actually made it.”
Australia took the lead thanks to Kirin Arunasalam, who produced a brilliant touch in front of Dutch goalkeeper Maurits Visser to find the net. Blake Govers squandered a gild-edged chance to double the advantage from the penalty spot just before half time, and it proved costly when Jip Janssen slammed home a penalty corner drag flick midway through the second half.
The Australians were not to be denied, however, with Jack Welsh firing home a close-range winner following some persistent work along the backline from man of the match Lachlan Sharp.
“It is going to be great to play in the semi-final of the Junior World Cup,” said Sharp after the match. “They are always tough opponents, the Dutch, but we were lucky enough to come away with the win.”
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