2016 FIH Men's Hockey Champions Trophy: India settle for silver after losing in shootout to Australia
A thrilling, evenly-matched encounter that lived up to the promise of a befitting finale to the tournament featuring the ‘Best of the best’ teams in world hockey drew to a close with Australia claiming their 14th title after edging past a resilient Indian side in a tie-breaker. The Indian hockey team have won hearts with their commendable 2nd-place finish following a gritty 0-0 against the champions who’re ranked six places above them in the FIH rankings.
It was the Aussies who pushed back from the centre to set the wheels of the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy finale in motion. Having faced each other just the previous day, both the teams looked more confident in their strides and neither could rustle up a clear scoring opportunity halfway into the first quarter.
The first penalty corner went Australia’s way in the 9th minute, which opened up the floodgates to allow three more to be taken in front of the Indian goal. An unflinching Sreejesh, complemented beautifully by a tightly knit defence stood immune to everything coming their way which then translated to the Blueshirts putting their foot on the gas as they forayed into the opponents’ circle.
Two close Indian penalty corners later, scores were still tied at 0-0 as the match went into the second quarter.
Govers misses a penalty stroke in the 18th minute
The second quarter had the Indians’ clean sheet threatened very early when the Kookaburras earned a penalty stroke after Turner’s attempt struck Surinder Kumar’s feet while he stood as the last man guarding the goal, behind keeper PR Sreejesh. It was a heart-in-mouth moment for every Indian that fortunately ended with Blake Gover’s shot going wide off target in the 18th minute, thus failing to affect the scoresheets.
Virtually countless signature Sreejesh-saves and few intense attacking spells for either side later, it was still goalless when the half-time interval arrived. The Men in Blue had certainly risen to the occasion in keeping their mighty opponents at bay till the half-hour mark.
At half-time, India led the share of possession with 56%
Few hockey clashes mesmerise as much as this one did even without a single goal being scored for such long stretches. Soon after the Indian defence scampered to protect the 9th penalty corner they faced in the 38th minute, they enforced a string of aggressive forward plays that began to look dangerous for the World No. 1 side.
It was then Andrew Charter’s turn to face the music as he made himself big at the goal to keep out successive Indian onslaughts deep into the 3rd quarter. The turning of tables became all the more apparent when both Matthew Swann and Trent Mitton were handed suspensions of 2 and 5 minutes respectively, giving India a two-man advantage for a short period. A few unforced errors committed by some tiring feet on the field meant a breakthrough was yet to happen with the final fifteen minutes of regulation time remaining.
With only the 4th quarter left, there was nothing to separate the two championship contenders
Matt Dawson’s ugly challenge in the 50th minute led to one more yellow card and debarred him from the action for a crucial final ten minutes. India could almost sense the clutches of victory as they maintained a whopping 79% possession against a depleted 10-man Australian side.
Chants of “India, India!” picking up in the stands, a flurry of Indian chances couldn’t culminate in a decisive goal for the underdogs.Nikkin Thimmaiah’s 57th-minute suspension brought the teams back even in terms of manpower during the dying minutes before the hooter was sounded to end the contest as a goalless draw.
Winner decided via penalty shootout
Australia (Aran Zalewski, Daniel Beale, Simon Orchard) 3 – 1 India (Harmanpreet Singh)