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Clinical India off to a rousing start at FIH World Cup

Having made several charges at Spain, India sniffed a first opportunity in the 11th minute and doubled it in the 26th
Last Updated : 13 January 2023, 20:10 IST
Last Updated : 13 January 2023, 20:10 IST
Last Updated : 13 January 2023, 20:10 IST
Last Updated : 13 January 2023, 20:10 IST

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Hardik Singh (left) celebrates with team-mate Manpreet Singh after scoring India’s second goal against Spain in FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup in Rourkela on Friday. (RIGHT) Amit Rohidas scored the opening goal. PTI
Hardik Singh (left) celebrates with team-mate Manpreet Singh after scoring India’s second goal against Spain in FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup in Rourkela on Friday. (RIGHT) Amit Rohidas scored the opening goal. PTI
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Opening examinations, especially in front of a packed partisan home crowd, can sometimes be unnerving. Add the opponents who have been a thorn in the flesh in recent years, and the test becomes even harder. India though aced it comfortably, downing Spain 2-0 to kick off their FIH World Cup campaign on a rousing note on Friday.

Right from dominating possession to circle penetrations to not allowing Spain a hold in the game, even in the final quarter when they were a man down for 10 minutes after Abhishek picked up an yellow card, India checked most of the boxes to walk away to a thunderous applause at the the newly-built Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela.

India needed a minute to settle down but once they did, they took complete control of the contest as they played to the plans set by coach Graham Reid, rarely deviating from it to completely outplay Spain who have been a hard nut to crack for the hosts. They moved with speed, attacked with aggression, defended sharply and remained organised at the back, much to the delight of the Aussie tactician who has galvanised the side over the last few years.

Having made several charges at Spain, India sniffed a first opportunity in the 11th minute when they earned their opening penalty corner but Jarmanpreet Singh shot wide. The disappointment lasted briefly though as India stroked ahead in the very next minute, the scorer being none other than homeboy Amit Rohidas.

Skipper Harmanpreet Singh, the ace drag-flicker who was on the bench for the first chance, took the second one but his shot was saved by a Spanish on-rusher. The ball, however, fell to Rohidas and the Indian deputy lashed it home to send the crowd into raptures. It was also India’s 200th goal in World Cups.

With their tails up, India kept continuously thrusting forward. They never allowed Spain, whom India hadn’t beaten in their previous three attempts, to settle into any sort of rhythm. Attacks flowed from both flanks while the midfield barely allowed the Europeans to surpass them. The couple of times they did, either the defence mopped it up without breaking much sweat or substitute goalkeeper Krishan Pathak was there to thwart it.

The utter possession dominance — India had more than 70 per cent for three quarters — saw the hosts double their lead in the 26th minute. The impressive Hardik Singh danced down the left and whipped in a cross that deflected off Spain defender Pau Cunhill’s stick into his own net.

India went in search of a third in the penultimate quarter and almost got it twice only to be let down by poor finishing. First Harmanpreet, who had a rare off day, saw his penalty strike saved by goalkeeper Adrian Rafi in the 32nd minute before Shamsher Singh missed a sitter with a goal at his mercy nine minutes later.

India, however, didn’t allow those mistakes and a yellow card for Abhishek in the 47th minute to cost them.

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Published 13 January 2023, 17:18 IST

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