Bhubaneswar, India: Four matches took place on the second day of action at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017, with Belgium, Spain and England claiming important wins in their respective pools at the Kalinga Stadium.
The opening match of the day was a replay of the gold medal game at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a contest that Argentina (FIH Hero World Ranking: 1) famously won to claim their first ever Olympic title. This time, the victory went the way of Belgium’s Red Lions (WR: 3), who emerged as 3-2 winners in hot and humid conditions.
A penalty corner rocket from Loick Luypaert (Man of the Match, presented by Odisha New Opportunities) gave Belgium a 1-0 lead in the first quarter, an advantage that was eventually doubled nine minutes from time thanks to a powerful backhand strike from Amaury Keusters. Maico Casella (Junior Player of the Match, presented by ONGC) reduced the deficit a minute later with a cool finish from the top of the circle before Tom Boon’s penalty corner re-established Belgium’s two-goal advantage. Los Leones again hit back with an unstoppable penalty corner from Gonzalo Peillat, but it was not enough to deny Belgium the victory.
I don’t think we played our best game today, so that is really good to get the three points knowing we can play better”, said Belgium’s John-John Dohmen, the 2016 Hockey Stars Male Player of the Year who also commented on his return to the international scene after a year-long break. “It is a great feeling to be back, I’ve missed it. It is always great to wear the Belgium shirt.”
Also in Pool A, Spain’s Red Sticks (WR: 9) claimed a fine 3-2 triumph over European champions the Netherlands (WR: 4), with veteran Spanish attacker Pau Quemada giving his side a lead through a 15th minute penalty corner.
The Spaniards moved into 2-0 lead five minutes after half time thanks to a poacher’s finish from rising star Enrique Gonzalez (Junior Player of the Match, presented by ONGC), before the Netherlands pulled a goal back through Lars Balk, who pounced on a saved penalty corner to fire into the roof of the Red Sticks net.
Just as it seemed the Dutch were on the comeback trail, Spain added a third when Sergi Enrique was left unmarked to guide a perfect deflection past Netherlands shot-stopper Pirmin Blaak to leave Oranje will everything to do going into the final quarter. Mirco Pruyser made the score 3-2 with five minutes remaining, but it proved to be a consolation as Spain started their World League Final campaign in winning fashion.
Spain captain Miguel Delas, who reached a personal milestone of 200 international appearances, said: “I’m really happy for our team. I think we did a super effort and it was great to play in this amazing stadium. Besides that, it nice recognition for myself and I’m really happy to have reached 200 caps with Spain.”
In Pool B, Germany (WR: 5) and Australia (WR: 2) played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in a match in which the momentum constantly shifted. Marco Miltkau smashed home the opening goal in the seventh minute, with Australia’s Blake Govers levelling with an improvised penalty corner in the third quarter. Aaron Kleinschmidt put the Kookaburras ahead with 12 minutes remaining, but a captain’s goal from Martin Häner secured a 2-2 draw for Die Honamas, who finished the day at the top of the Pool B with four points from their two matches.
Speaking after the match, Australia’s Eddie Ockenden – who made his 300th senior international appearance for Australia today – said: “Australia versus Germany in front of a huge Indian crowd is pretty special. I’ll always remember my 300th game for that reason. We want to win the tournament and I think we were better than (the draw against India) yesterday. Whenever we come to tournaments we want to win, so it is definitely our aim.”
Another mammoth crowd turned out to watch host nation and Asian champions India (WR: 6) in the final match of the day, although they did not get the result they hoped for as England (WR: 7) snatched a 3-2 victory. The European bronze medallists established a 2-0 lead thanks to strikes from David Goodfield and Sam Ward (Man of the Match, presented by Odisha New Opportunities) before India came roaring back into the contest, with Akashdeep Singh netting before Rupinder Singh tied the match with ten minutes to go. However, it was Ward who would have the last word, creating space in the circle before smashing home a terrific strike to give England a winning response to their opening day defeat against Germany. The result moved England up to second in the Pool B table, one point behind leaders Germany and ahead of both third placed Australia and fourth placed India.
The competition continues on Sunday 3rd December with two matches in Pool A. Belgium face Spain at 1730 Indian Standard Time (UTC: +5.30) before European champions the Netherlands take on Olympic champions Argentina at 1930.
RESULTS – DAY 2
Pool A: Argentina 2, Belgium 3.
Man of the Match, presented by Odisha New Opportunities: Loick Luypaert (BEL)
Junior Player of the Match, presented by ONGC: Maico Casella (ARG)
Pool A: Netherlands 2, Spain 3.
Man of the Match, presented by Odisha New Opportunities: Ricardo Santana (ESP)
Junior Player of the Match, presented by ONGC: Enrique Gonzalez (ESP)
Pool B: Germany 2, Australia 2.
Man of the Match, presented by Odisha New Opportunities: Jake Whetton (AUS)
Junior Player of the Match, presented by ONGC: Lachlan Sharp (AUS)
Pool B: India 2, England 3.
Man of the Match, presented by Odisha New Opportunities: Sam Ward (ENG)
Junior Player of the Match, presented by ONGC: Harmanpreet Singh (IND)