3 years after the Kuala Lumpur edition of the FIH World Cup had culminated with India claiming the top honors, the World Cup was held for the first time in the calendar slot that continues till date - between two Olympics editions. 14 teams participated in the mega extravaganza that was held in 1978 at Buenos Aires in Argentina.
But a lot had changed. India was no more the invincible superpower of field hockey and Pakistan was struggling to regain its stronghold on the sport despite having won a face saving bronze medal at Montreal Olympics 1976. The FIH World Cup held in 1978 would change this for once and for all.
Stage set for India's decline
Two years after they shocked everyone with their dismal exit from Montreal 1976, India came into this World Cup as just another team. There was no excitement around the team, no articles in their favor, and certainly no buzz like it used to be when they won six Olympic gold medals on a trot. It had been 14 years since they last won a gold, 6 years since they last won an Olympic medal and 3 years since they last won a World Cup medal.
This edition only stamped the belief further that Indian hockey was on a decline. They scored barely 8 goals to the 12 goals that they conceded, a clear departure from their previous campaign in 1975, where they conceded 9 goals as compared to the 19 they scored.
There used to be a time when India didn't led the opposition score even a single goal, forget winning the match. However, by 1978, that golden age was all but over. Like Montreal 1976, India sank without a trace, and ended up on a measly 6th position, losing horribly to Spain by 0-2.
Pakistan embark on a roll
On the other hand, Pakistan had taken an oath to win back the World Cup in style. They started with a bang, as they pummeled Ireland by 9-0, followed by Italy, who were defeated soundly by 7-0. Next came Netherlands, who were whacked 3-1 by Pakistan, and it was followed by a 3-0 defeat of Malaysia.
Likewise, even Spain and Argentina couldn't survive the assault, and Pakistan ended the league stage as table toppers, with all the matches won, and only 2 goals conceded overall. The semifinals were a mere formality, as Pakistan snuck a simple shot into the goalpost, defeating West Germany by 1-0 in order to enter the finals.
The finals brought Pakistan and Netherlands to the forefront. The Dutch refused to budge, securing an early lead of 2-0 with their star players Ties Kruize and Paul Litjens scoring for the team. However, Pakistan was anything but done.
They bounced back in style as Akhtar Rasool scored on a penalty stroke, followed by the captain Islahudddin Siddiqui. The winning goal was struck by Ehsanullah, who was a last minute replacement for the injured Hassan. Pakistan had regained the World Cup in style.Published 14 Nov 2018, 12:59 IST