As the action began in Bhubaneswar and finished in Rourkela.
In Bhubaneswar, Argentina were the first to get on the board, registering a close 1-0 win against South Africa. Australia then went top of Pool A with a dominant 8-0 win against France, who played well despite the unflattering scoreline.
Action then shifted to Rourkela where England got the better of neighbours Wales, winning 5-0. It was then home team India’s turn against a tricky Spanish team that has caused them some trouble over the past year in the FIH Hockey Pro League. But after overcoming early nerves, the Indian attack dominated and claimed a 2-0 win to get 3 crucial points in the Pool D encounter.
Match 1: Argentina vs South Africa 1-0
Both Argentina and South Africa set a fast tone for the World Cup playing all-out attacking hockey in the first quarter. Both goalkeepers had to be on constant alert as the ball entered the circle multiple times for both teams, but neither team could produce a real threat on the goal. Argentina came out in attack in the second quarter however, earning 3 quick penalty corners, but Gowan Jones stepped up in the South African goal and kept the scores tied. Two yellow cards for Keenan and Catan in the 2nd quarter arrested Argentina’s momentum and the teams went into the break on level terms.
Argentina started the second half brighter but couldn’t open the scoring despite earning their 5th and 6th penalty corners early in the half. Argentina did finally manage to break the deadlock in the 43rd minute through a field goal as Maico Casella got in front of Gowan Jones and a slight deflection on a shot by Toscani unsighted the in-form keeper. Argentina held on to the slender lead, as the South African attack lacked penetration, till the very end and took all 3 points.
Maico Casella was awarded the player of the match and said: “Good to win the first match, we played well enough. I think the positive we take is the number of penalty corners we won, and we will start converting more going forward.”
Match 2: Australia vs France 8-0
Australia were quick off the blocks showing why they are the early tournament favourites. They got the first goal of the game thanks to a brilliant run by Tom Craig as he split the defence, passed to Tim Brand and got a deflection on Craig’s shot to cap off the fantastic move. France were much better in the second quarter but failed to capitalise on their chances and Australia made them pay with 3 goals in the final 4 minutes.
Australia had all the momentum going into the half and were quick to get going in the second half as a beautiful team move saw 4 players touch the ball in the circle before it was tapped home by Tom Craig. Jeremy Hayward then scored his third penalty corner goal to complete a smashing hattrick. Tom Brand added a third as well in the 45th minute to become the second Australian to grab a hattrick in the same game! Australia cruised through the final quarter adding one more goal through Tom Wickham to cap off a great 8-0 win and take all 3 points.
Hattrick hero Tom Craig was awarded player of the match and said: “Good to get the goals but better feeling winning. We haven’t played tournament hockey since July last year, but we prepared well for this and hopefully we get even better going forward.”
Match 3: England vs Wales 5-0
England made a fantastic start to the game as Nicholas Park scored within the first 20 seconds to stun Wales and grab an early lead. But Wales were quick to get up to speed and the remainder of the half was an even contest with both teams trading attacks. England scored at the perfect time again, doubling their lead through a Liam Ansell penalty corner goal with just 2 minutes left in the half, leaving Wales to try and chase the game in the 2nd half.
England scored twice in the 3rd quarter to gain total control of the game. Liam Ansel scored his second goal of the game in the 38th minute from a penalty corner, and Phil Roper opened his account with a field goal in the 42nd minute to put the game beyond Wales’ reach. Wales committed heavily to the attack in the final quarter trying to claw a goal back, but England stood firm and scored a 5th goal through Nicholas Bandurak in the 57th minute to seal a perfect win and 3 points for England.
Sam Ward was awarded player of the match and said: “Could not have asked for a better start to the tournament. Just want to keep the momentum going from here on out and into the next game against India.”
Match 4: India vs Spain 2-0
The Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela was packed to the rafters as home team India took on rivals Spain in a big Pool D encounter to close day 1 of the World Cup. The game was also attended by Shri Naveen Patnaik, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha, Shri Prem Singh Tamang, Hon’ble Chief minister of Sikkim, Shri Tayyab Ikram, President – International Hockey Federation, Padma Shri Dr. Dilip Tirkey, President – Hockey India, accompanied by Cdr RK Srivastava, Executive Director, Hockey India.
Spain started the game on the front foot causing India some nervy moments, but India settled down soon and were in front by the end of first quarter as Amit Rohidas capitalised on a blocked drag flick by Harmanpreet to bury a shot in the goal, which was India’s 200th goal in the competition! India struck again before the half through a goal by Hardik to take a solid 2-0 lead into the half.
India had great chances in the 3rd quarter to add to their lead, primarily through a Harmanpreet Singh penalty stroke, but the attempt was saved comfortably by Adrian Rafi. India also won 2 penalty corners in the 3rd quarter, but Harmanpreet Singh sent both attempts wide. India continued to attack, not allowing Spain to put them under pressure. All attempts by the Spanish attack to get a goal back were also well stopped by the Indian defence, led brilliantly by goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, as India carried their 2-0 lead into the full time whistle and secured 3 crucial points in Pool D.
Home favourite Amit Rohidas was awarded the player of the match and said: “Playing here felt really good, and this was a great win. Thank you to the crowd who turned up in such huge numbers and cheered us on so loudly.”