Hockey World Cup 2018: Experts liken all-Hispanic classic to Indo-Pak encounter
- A review of the first Pool A clash of the Odisha World Cup which was played between Spain and Argentina
Two sides who speak the same language, share a common heritage and most importantly play hockey with the same fiery flare.
We are not referring to India and Pakistan, and in this particular case, the countries in question are a good 15,000 kilometres apart, situated in two different hemispheres of the globe, but the manner in which Spain and Argentina began their World Cup campaign was in many ways reminiscent of a typical classic between the former giants of world hockey.
The South Americans, much like their former colonial masters have taken to hockey in a big way, and as far as the world rankings are concerned, have gradually ascended well above the Olympic silver medalists of 2008.
As a matter of fact, Argentina was not even part of the Olympics in 2008, having failed to qualify for the event after losing to Canada in the finals of the 2007 Pan American Games while Spain created history by making it to the finals at Beijing.
Back in the 2006 Hockey World Cup, the Spanish won bronze while the Argentinians were languishing in the tenth position, one rung above the Indians - but the scales tilted considerably four years ago when Argentina won bronze at the Hague, while Spain ended up eighth.
At the Kalinga Stadium on Thursday, the Spanish who finished fifth at Rio, matched the Olympic champions in every department, took the lead twice but, agonizingly ended up on the losing side as Gonzalo Peillat fired a PC brace to get Argentina over the line in an absolute cliffhanger.
In attendance at the stadium was Harendra Singh and members of the Indian squad who were soaking in the excitement along with spectators from around the globe.
Enrique Gonzalez, the youngest member of the Red Sticks squad, which is packed with a number of veterans, took it upon himself to almost single-handedly outdo the Argentine defence time and again.
The 22-year-old was a bundle of infectious energy and skill and gave his side the lead as early as the third minute, but even before the celebrations could die down, Agustin Mazzilli restored parity for the South Americans at the other end of the pitch.
Josep Romeu gave the Spaniards the lead yet again just before the end of the first quarter off a PC, as Pau Quemada, the ace drag-flicker, stepped aside to fox the Argentine runners at the very the last moment, but Mazzilli put the Argentinians back on level terms within seconds.
Gonzalo Peillat did what he does best to put his side ahead after the Olympic champions earned a PC with no time left on the clock in the first quarter - much to the relief of coach German Orozco.
Five goals had been scored in the space of fifteen minutes and the jaw-dropping statistics at the end of a barren second quarter revealed that Argentina found the back of the net thrice from just as many shots on goal while the Spaniards had managed to fire just two shots on target and scored both times.
The final scoreline read 4-3 in favour of the Olympic champions with Peillat scoring the winner off a PC in the 49th minute after Vicenc Ruiz had levelled things up just after half-time.
The Spanish had one last chance to earn a creditable draw but Enrique Gonzalez failed to control the ball in the striking circle in the very last minute.
Siegfried Aikman coach of the Japanese side which won gold at the Asian Games was at the Kalinga Stadium and was just as exhilarated by the action as the screaming fans in the stands.
The Dutchman, who loved the atmosphere at Bhubaneswar told Sportskeeda after the match that was he was enthralled by the contest which he thought was reminiscent of an India-Pakistan encounter.
"Enjoyed the match, Argentina- Spain is like India-Pakistan."
Former India captain Jude Felix who feels that world hockey needs Pakistan to perform, to inject flair into the game, enjoyed the first Pool A clash.
"It was a very good game which had all aspects to call it beautiful," the coach of the Indian junior side told Sportskeeda.
The former half-back who has locked horns with the best Pakistan sides of all time in the 1990s was emphatic that although the all-Hispanic encounter could be compared to an India-Pakistan clash, there was nothing in the world that could truly match the original.
"You could make a comparison, (to an India-Pakistan clash), but no game rivalry is more passionate as an India-Pakistan game of yesteryears."
Former India goalkeeper Ashish Ballal who knows a thing or two about Pakistan, having played against the old rivals extensively, pointed out that the one ingredient which reminded him of the subcontinental rivalry, in yesterday's match, was the intensity of the contest.
Follow Sportskeeda for all the latest Hockey World Cup Points table, schedule, stats & previews.Published 30 Nov 2018, 11:53 IST