Indians lose, end sixth

England stun Australia to clinch bronze medal

India slumped from a position of advantage to a 2-1 defeat against Belgium and settled for a sixth place in the Hero Hockey World League Final on Saturday.   

After a barren first half, the home side was given a 1-0 lead by birthday boy Nikkin Thimmaiah (59th) who scored after a frantic goalmouth scramble. But Belgium scored twice in quick succession through Florent van Aubel (67th) and Tom Boon (68th) late in the game to snuff out India’s hopes of recovery.   

Coach Terry Walsh was satisfied with India’s sixth place finish. “We have come such a long way in a very short period of time. We have grown and developed as group in the last couple of weeks. Our aim is to perform good for a long period of time. By Asian Games, we should be in a reasonably good position,” he said.

The home team, fresh from their 4-3 upset of Olympic Champions Germany, was greeted by a handsome turnout at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. Both sides made a thrilling start with India drawing cheers for their buoyant performance. But unlike their last outing, they lacked focus and consistency against the World No 5 side.

Filled with chances

Both sides carved out good chances in the first half but failed to make them count. India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh dished out another fine performance, producing some excellent saves and was deservedly named the man of the match.

The restless home fans were treated to some exciting action in the second half. India attacked with urgency and pushed Belgium to go on the defensive. The efforts of Belgium forwards were muffed up by an alert backline led by Sreejesh. Two penalty corners were well-defended by India before they sliced through the Belgium defence with Nikkin turning out to be a hero on his 24th birthday.

The joy proved to be short lived, though. Van Aubel executed a perfect deflection to equalise and Boon converted a penalty corner to seal the victory for Belgium.

Meanwhile, England inflicted a shock 2-1 defeat on World Champions Australia to emerge the bronze medal winners.  

Classification results: Third-place play-of: England: 2 (Tom Carson 13th, Barry Middleton 54th) bt Australia: 1 (Glenn Turner 16th). 

Fifth-place play-off: Belgium: 2 (Florent van Aubel  67th, Tom Boon 68th) bt India: 1 (Nikkin Thimmaiah 59th).

Seventh-place play-off: Germany: 2 (Benjamin Wess 22nd, Tobias Matania 60th) bt Argentina: 1 (Facundo Callioni 16th).

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