Perfect start for defending champions at FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup

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Argentina got their title defence off to the perfect start as the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup Malaysia 2023 kicked off in Kuala Lumpur, beating Australia in their opening match of the tournament. A solitary second-half goal from Ignacio Nardolillo was enough to secure the spoils for the defending champions.

There were also victories for title contenders Germany, France, Spain, India (thanks to an Araijeet Singh Hundal hat-trick) and hosts Malaysia.

We take a look at all six matches that took place on the opening day of action in Malaysia.

 

France vs Egypt (Full-Time Score: 3-1)

2021 bronze medallists France claimed a comfortable 3-1 victory over Egypt in their tournament opener against Egypt. Morcrette Arthur opened the scoring for the French after 21 minutes, tapping in a reverse stick cross after it deflected off an Egyptian stick.

Clément Mathis then extended their lead with an incredible piece of reactive skill, controlling a lifted save with two aerial touches to tap back in through the keeper’s legs. Denis Gaspard completed the scoring for France off a short corner in the 38th minute, slapping in from close range as the ball bounced off the post-man’s foot. Egypt managed to pull one back in the 49th minute, Elhadi Ahmed perfectly positioned to deflect in a neat reverse stick cross.

While Egypt defended well, they couldn’t get going on the attack, and they will be particularly disappointed at how easily they turned over possession, with France controlling the match throughout.

Player of the match, Stanislas Branicki, said afterwards: “It’s nice to play the first game of the World Cup. I think for me the finishing in the circle, we don’t score a lot of goals. We have to improve that.”

 

Germany vs South Africa (Full-Time Score: 5-3)

Runners-up last time out, Germany, got their Junior World Cup campaign off to a solid start with a 5-3 victory over South Africa. Paul Gander opened the scoring for the Germans after just five minutes, his wide drag flick deflecting in off a defender’s stick. Ben Hansbach then drew all the defenders in front of goal before executing a delicate reverse flip for Florian Sperling to tap in at the left post. David Tshebi opened South Africa’s account in the 24th minute by beating the keeper through his legs from an acute angle, but Liam Holdermann struck back immediately to give Germany a 3-1 lead at half time.

South African scored first in the second half, Jaydon Brooker rocketing his drag flick in off the first wave’s stick. Germany answered off a penalty stroke, Matteo Poljaric accurate into the top left corner. Hans Neethling got one back for South Africa with seven minutes to play, and they pulled their keeper off to have a full go. Ben Hansbach closed the match out for Germany in the 59th minute, however, easily tapping into the vacant South African goal.

Florian Sperling was named Man of the Match and said: “A really tough game. It was a team win. I think we need to concentrate more on the defence. It’s not just scoring five goals, we can score just two goals, a single goal and then we win as well, so that will be our main focus.”

 

Spain vs Canada (Full-Time Score: 7-0)

Spain got their tournament underway with a convincing 7-0 win over Canada. Nicolas Alvarez was on target in the second minute, an attacking pass into the circle being deflected twice by his teammates before he smashed it in from close range. Pol Cabre Verdiell added a penalty stroke, and Andreas Rafi powered a knee-high drag flick through the post-man’s stick to give Spain a 3-0 lead at half time.

Oriol Bozal scored with two drag flicks late in the third quarter, the first to the keeper’s left, the second to his right. Xavier Barutell then ran a great support line to score a beautifully worked field goal, and Bruno Font cleaned up the scraps of a goalmouth scramble to close out the scoring.

Man of the match, Bruno Font, said afterwards: “It’s been a great game and we are happy for the win. We’ll see what we did good in this match and see what we can do in order to play India because it’s going to be a good match and we know it’s going to be hard.”

 

Argentina vs Australia (Full-Time Score: 1-0)

It was an incredibly tight match between Argentina and Australia with the defending champions just eking out a 1-0 win. Both goalkeepers made vital saves to keep the scores locked at 0-0 for most of the encounter. Australia applied intense pressure through two periods of play in the third quarter when Argentina had players yellow carded, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

It was as Australia were waiting for their own yellow-carded player to return to the pitch on 58 minutes that Argentina finally broke the deadlock, patiently working the ball into an attacking position before Tomas Ruiz fired it into the circle from 25m out. Bautista Capurro deflected it exquisitely towards the penalty spot for a waiting Ignacio Nardolillo to slap it home, despite keeper Oliver Higgins getting a touch on the ball.

Ignacio Nardolillo received the Man of the Match award and said: “It was a very hard match. We know that we have to run hard, we know that it was going to be like this. Scoring the goal, it was good but it’s the team that wins the game.”

 

India vs Korea (Full-Time Score: 4-2)

Former world junior champions India earned their first points of the tournament with a 4-2 victory over Korea in their opener. The Indian side took the lead off a penalty corner in the 11th minute, Araijeet Singh Hundal laying the ball back after the initial save before receiving it again and pushing it under the keeper. He slapped in a second after a good baseline run by Boby Singh Dhami, and Amandeep added a field goal to give India a 3-0 lead at half time.

Dohyun Lim scored off a penalty corner for South Korea before Araijeet completed his hat-trick for India. Minkwon Kim closed out the scoring off another penalty corner for Korea, banging in a reverse stick shot after the keeper had saved the drag flick.

Araijeet Singh Hundal was named Man of the Match for his hat-trick heroics and said: “The start was very positive for all of us. We can’t take any game easy so we will give our 100% with full effort and with full quality vibes.”

 

Malaysia vs Chile (Full-Time Score: 7-1)

Hosts Malaysia started the tournament with an emphatic 7-1 win over the lowest-ranked side in the competition, Chile. Osman Harris hosts’ account by tapping in at the left post after a scrappy penalty corner, and Danish Aiman Muhammad added a field goal for Malaysia to lead 2-0 at half time.

There was a flood of goals in the second half, however. Sebastián Wolansky scored early off a drag flick for Chile but that would be the only time they found the back of the net. Malaysia responded through Andywalfian Jeffrynus off a botched penalty corner, and again through Azmilmuizzuddin Misron who was quickest to react at the keeper’s feet after he saved the drag flick. Shamir Shamsul slid in for a deflection from open play, and Shahmie Irfan Suhaimi bagged first a penalty corner and then a penalty stroke to complete the scoring.

Player of the match Shahmie Irfan Suhaimi was extremely pleased with the Malaysian performance and thanked the home fans for their support.

 

To see the current pool standings after Day 1, click here.

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