FIH Champions Trophy 2018: How the equations fit for everyone after Day 3
Day 3 of the FIH Champions Trophy saw the first elimination of the tournament, as the Netherlands pummeled Pakistan by the same score as India, i.e. 4-0, knocking them out of contention for the finals, while Belgium is almost on the same road, with an unimpressive draw against Olympic champions Argentina by 1-1.
Netherlands vs Pakistan: Hosts have a blast
Riding high on the humongous victory of 6-1 over Belgium, Netherlands proved against Pakistan that the hosts are no pushover. Giving Roelant Oltmans' boys no respite, the hosts pummeled them by 4-0. From the word go, it was imminent that Pakistan had no chance.
Though it took Netherlands 25 minutes to score their opening goal, once star player Robert Kempermann deflected the ball into the goal, there was no looking back. Scoring at regular intervals, Valentin Verga and Thijs Van Dam added to the lead, extending Netherlands' score to 3-0. 5 minutes into the final quarter, Mirco Pruyser, who is also the joint topper in terms of the number of goals, extended his tally to 3 goals.
As if this was enough, Pakistan had other moments of humiliation. A desperate push for a goal proved too costly for them as Mubashir Ali was shown a yellow card for getting a tad too offensive. The Netherlands will now meet defending champions Australia, while Pakistan shall have it out with Olympic champions Argentina on Day 5 of the tournament, i.e 28th June.
Argentina vs. Belgium: End of the road for Belgium?
In another match, that preceded the goal fest of Netherlands, Olympic champions Argentina eked out a draw with Belgium, with a score of 1-1 at the end of the match. Gonzalo Peillat, the penalty corner wizard for Argentina, joined Mirco Pruyser as the top goalscorer for the edition, while Amaury Keusters, a newbie for the Belgian team, scored the equalizer in the 37th minute.
The road ahead after Day 3
With the end of Day 3, here is a rough sketch of how teams are faring at the last edition of the FIH Men's Hockey Champions Trophy:-
With a comprehensive win over Pakistan, Netherlands has not only replaced India as the table toppers but are still in contention for the finals. On the other hand, with three consecutive losses, Pakistan is officially out of contention for the finals. If they win their last two matches, which looks unlikely as of now, they might still make it to the bronze medal playoff.
Belgium fares no better. Touted as one of the contenders for the finals, their second draw against Argentina has endangered their final plans. With two draws and a loss, Belgium stands 5th in the table as of now. If they want to make it to the finals, they need to win their last two matches at all costs, as even a draw in these would knock them out of contention for the finals, though they're still in contention for the bronze medal playoffs.
The Olympic champions, Argentina, are still in contention for the finals, with a win, a draw and a loss from their three encounters. Given that their next encounter is against Pakistan, Argentina should win this match at all costs, so that even if they lose against Australia in the last encounter, their chances for finals are not threatened by any other team.
How does India fare?
With Pakistan knocked out, and Belgium's contention in doldrums, there are only four strong contenders for a place in the last ever finals for an FIH Champions Trophy, and one of them is without any doubt our Team India. No more the 'Chokers' that they're infamous as, this team stands second in the table, with two consecutive wins over Argentina and Pakistan.
However, they face their acid test as they meet defending champions Australia today in their third encounter. So how would India fare in terms of results after this match?
Simple enough. God forbid that, but if India loses this match, they have to win at least one match against either Belgium or Netherlands and make a draw in order to contention. But a draw against Australia will continue to cement their place in the finals, and then even one win against either Belgium or Netherlands will see them through. A draw will, however, jeopardize Australia's chances of making it to the finals, since they've won only one match as of now.
If India manages to surprise Australia with a win, the results of the following matches will be negligible to their aspirations, for they would have already booked their tickets for the finals. Knowing this very well, coach Harendra Singh and his analytical compatriot Chris Ciriello, ironically an ex Australian stalwart, shall leave no stone unturned to deliver the unexpected.