At the end it was a heart break as India bade a tearful adieu to the World Cup.
India missed a chance to script a new chapter as they went down 1-2 to The Netherlands in an edge-of-the-seat quarter-final of the 14th Hockey World Cup at Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday evening.
With this, the last-four line-up of the World Cup was completed; England will take on Belgium, while The Netherlands will face defending champions Australia in the semi-finals on Saturday.
India had a chance to get into the semi-finals of this competition after 43 years but the Dutch upped the ante in the last quarter and came out with a winner in the 50th minute off a penalty corner and held tenaciously to that slender lead.
Thierry Brinkman (15th) and Mink van der Weerden (50th) scored a goal each for the winners while Akashdeep Singh scored first for hosts in the 12th minute.
The Indians gave the formidable Dutch a run for their money as they matched them move for move, attack for attack. In fact, in the second and third quarters, the hosts enjoyed an edge over their rivals. But it all boiled down to converting even half chances.
The teams opened the game under different kinds of pressure. There was a packed stadium expecting India to dominate, while the Netherlands, thrice winner, had their reputation at stake.
It was a tentative start to the tense last quarter-final and the teams were not willing to take risks and kept probing each other for six or seven minutes. The ball was confined in the middle with midfielders playing their role feeding their strikers but the defence of both sides making some good saves.
The Dutch, after warding off afew Indian moves, made an incisive move through Jeroen Hetrzberger but Kothajit and Surender combined well to foil the attack. Another attack this time, again from left, saw Mirco Pruijser into action but he too failed to cut through the defence.
India generated a counter move which unsettled the Dutch defence and they conceded the penalty corner. Harmanpreet’s flick was cleared but on the rebound Akashdeep sent the ball home, leaving the defenders bewildered (1-0) and the stadium erupted.
The jubilation lasted barely a minute as the Dutch made a furious counter and caught the Indian defence off guard as unmarked Thierry Brinkman inside the circle deflected a shot from the middle into the net (1-1) and silence descended on the stadium.
The Indians started the second quarter on an aggressive note with Simranjeet Singh and Lalit Upadhyay creating good moves while Akashdeep and Nilakanta Sharma in the middle kept the flanks moving with good distribution.
The Dutch, surprisingly, were edgy. Their interceptions were not as clean and time and again they fumbled inside the Indian circle. It was very unlike the three-time winners who looked a bit off colour
Towards the end of the third quarter, Thierry Brinkman made a dangerous but abortive move as Indian defenders closed on him to take the ball away.
Three minutes into the last quarter, Simranjeet made a fantastic run into the circle but his shot went abegging in front of the goal. It was a sitter for his teammates but no one could get their stick to turn it in. In hindsight, this was the missed chance that cost India the match
Two minutes later, the Dutch countered and they won a penalty corner and Mink van der Weerden converted it (2-1) to the dismay of the packed stadium.
The crowd came alive when a couple of minutes later Chinglensana Singh earned a penalty corner after Sander Baart felled him. But Harmanpreet Singh could not beat Pirmin Blaak who pulled of a good save. Four minute to go, coach Harendra Singh took out the goalkeeper and the Indians went on an all-out attack for the equaliser but that was not to be. The Dutch managed to ride roughshod in the remaining period to make their 10th entry into the semi-final in this tournament.
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