India pip Belgium 1-0 to face Germany in Junior Hockey World Cup semi-finals
Bhubaneswar, December 1, 2021
Riding on Sharda Nand Tiwari’s 20th-minute penalty corner conversion and goalkeeper Pawan’s heroics, defending champions India edged out Belgium 1-0 to set up a semi-final clash with six-time winners Germany in the Junior Hockey World Cup at Kalinga Stadium here on Wednesday night.
The last quarter-final of the tournament between India and Belgium turned out to be an edge-of-the-seat affair with the hosts being distinctly lucky to emerge a winner.
Incidentally, India and Belgium had also faced off in the final of the last edition of the Junior Hockey Tournament in 2016. India had beat the Belgian team in Lucknow to win the title last time.
Earlier in the three other quarter-finals, Germany pipped Spain in a penalty shootout. The six-time winners drew parity (2-2) with seconds left before winning the shootout 3-1.
Argentina downed the Netherlands 2-1 with the Dutch losing the match courtesy of a late own goal.
France faced no such resistance as they cruised past Malaysia 4-0.
It was Belgium who started the first quarter brightly and put the Indian defense under pressure in the early exchanges. However, the hosts retaliated but Belgian goalkeeper Boris Feldheim foiled their attempts.
Belgium muffed a golden opportunity to surge ahead in the 16th minute but defender Sanjay’s brave intervention thwarted that threat.
Four minutes later India earned their first and only penalty corner of the match and Sharda Nand Tiwari with a powerful drive beat Feldheim and sent the ball home (1-0).
With under four minutes to go for the half-time whistle, Belgium won their first penalty corner but failed to make use of it.
The third quarter saw Belgium going all out in search of an equalizer but some poor finishing by the forwards, and some stunning saves by custodian Pawan, ensured that the reigning champions maintained their slender lead.
Desperate for a goal in the final quarter, Belgium launched furious attacks from both wings found goalkeeper Pawan hard to beat. The Indian goalkeeper‘s heroic showing included a sensational double save from a penalty corner with two minutes left.
Belgium had more shots, circle penetrations, possession, and penalty corners. They piled on the pressure in the final stages, and boosted by a yellow card five-minute suspension for Yashdeep Siwach, certainly looked capable of tying the match and forcing a shoot-out.
“With the plan we had, we tried to execute that but still a few things couldn’t happen,” said India’s Vishnukant Singh, who was named Player of the Match. “It was a really tough match. We cannot underestimate our opponents. Our plan was to win and it is important that we enjoy that.”
Belgium captain Dylan Englebert said: “We played a great game. I think it was beautiful to watch, great actions and we did our best. With a bit more luck we might have scored and gone to shoot-outs. Of course, we are disappointed, but I’m proud of my team and proud of what we did. I think we gave everything, and that is what we are happy [about].”