London (16 June, 2016): By the twist of luck and fate India qualified for the final of the 36th edition of the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Friday.
The Australians had earlier punctuated India’s glowing desire to reach the final for the first time after the world champions prevailed 4-2 in the last preliminary round fixture against the Indians on Thursday.
But Roelant Oltmans India’s fortunes took a turn for the better when Great Britain came back from two goals down to hold World No 5-ranked Belgium to a 3-3 draw in a late match. The Belgians were headed for victory with a 3-1 lead until Britain struck back with two goals to equalise.
The result had helped India’s cause as they waited for the outcome of this Great Britain-Belgium encounter to know if they will feature in the final or a bronze medal playoff.
A victory over Australia would have catapulted India into the final of the Champions Trophy, something they have not achieved so far, or even a draw against the Aussies could boost their prospects. Another option would be the Belgians defeating Britons or hold the hosts to just a draw.
The Kookaburras now lead the table standings with 13 points and India second on seven points, pushing Germany into third (six points) and Great Britain fourth (6 points) followed by Belgium (four) and Koreans at the basement on three points.
Friday’s final with be a showpiece between World No 1 Australia and India, who last won a bronze at Champions Trophy way back in 1982 while Germany goes into third-fourth placing playoff against Great Britain.
The Germans went on redemption mode and roared back to pulverise Korea 7-0, lifting their own fortunes in the tournament with brace from Constantin Staib and Oskar Deecke, and one each from Tom Grambusch, Tim Herzbruch and Marko Miltkau.
Trent Mitton scored Australia’s opening goal from their fifth penalty corner in the 21st minute after goalkeeper P. Sreejesh had kept them at bay for 20 minutes and team captain Aran Zalewski extended the lead two minutes later while Flynn Ogilvie gets plenty of space in the circle to make it 3-0 five minutes into the third quarter.
The early slide was a wake-up call for the Indians who could not fathom what hit them as they scrambled to get their act and structure right against the tournament favourites. Midfielder and team captain V. Ragunath reduced the deficit in the 45th minute but the Australians shot ahead 4-1 within seconds in the fourth quarter via a Tristan White field goal to consolidate their position at the top.
India fought back well in the final quarter to close the gap at 2-4 through Mandeep Singh but it was too late to pose any serious problems a disciplined Australian team.
Graham Reid, Australia’s head coach, said: “I am happy with the result but certainly disappointed with the last quarter. We allowed India to come back strongly with their attacking play and they dominated the game. This is the thing about India. If you give them oxygen they will take it and this sort of things can be very dangerous.”
Thomas Briels gave Belgium the lead in the first minute of the game before Britain equalised through Barry Middleton (25th) from the penalty corner. But the Belgians went ahead 3-1 through a brace from Loïck Luypaert in the 30th and 42nd minutes via penalty corners. But Britain scored twice in the final three minutes through David Ames and Middleton again.
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