Hockey World Cup 2018, Quarterfinal 1: Argentina vs England - 5 Talking Points

England clinched a thrilling victory
England clinched a thrilling victory
Animesh Pandey

The 2018 Hockey World Cup has now entered one of its most crucial stages. For the first time since Rio Olympics 2016, a major FIH tournament like the Hockey World Cup was being conducted in the knockout format, which included crossovers, quarterfinals, and then proceeded to the semifinals and the subsequent finals.

The first quarterfinal were conducted between England and reigning Olympic champions Argentina. Even though they were the first team to enter the quarterfinals, their present form was in doubt after the drubbing they received at the hands of France, who shocked them by 5-3.

With the beginning of the match, one thing was proved for sure. The match was no one sided affair for sure. For one whole quarter, neither of the teams were able to penetrate into each other's striking circle, forget striking a goal and earning the lead.

Even when Gonzalo Peillat earned the lead for Argentina, a jittery Argentine defence broke his dream within 10 minutes, when England equalized the score with experienced stalwart Barry Middleton scoring a crisp field goal in the 27th minute.

Even though the third quarter went goalless, none of the teams were ready to budge even an inch. It was in the fourth quarter, that a classic encounter between the European and South American styles of hockey actually emerged.

When England took the lead in the 45th minute, Gonzalo Peillat once again came to the rescue of his Argentine team. However, the Olympic champions finally gave in, when Harry Martin outfoxed the Argentine goalkeeper to earn the winning goal for England.

Even though Argentina wasn't out, they couldn't breach the English defence, which worked superbly in the last 11 minutes, led by the British goalkeeper George Pinner, who kept his cool in the traditional British manner.

Not only England won the match, they also entered the semifinals of the FIH World Cup for the third time in a row since FIH World Cup 2010, when they achieved the honors for the first time since FIH World Cup 1986.

Here are five talking points from England's thrilling 3-2 victory over Argentina.

#5 A tussle for the ball in the first quarter

England and Argentina played a thrilling opening quarter
England and Argentina played a thrilling opening quarter

From the very first quarter itself, unlike the previous matches, both teams attacked each other with equal force and enthusiasm. Neither the Olympic champions Argentina, nor the British team were ready to budge even an inch in their fight for the ultimate glory and the ticket to the semifinals.

Argentina had an impressive record, riding high on their successes at the Rio Olympics 2016 and the 2017 FIH World Hockey League Finals. They had defeated the same England in the 2014 World Cup to win their first ever medal in a Hockey World Cup, and were expected to perform on the exact same level this time as well.

However, England had other plans. The English brilliance was visible in the very first quarter, as they denied the Argentine strikers even a single penetration in their circle, forget striking a goal. Led by experienced midfielder Barry Middleton, England made 4 circle entries, and earned 2 penalty corners. However, the Argentine goalkeeper, Juan Vivaldi, made two fantastic saves in order to keep the first quarter goalless.

#4 Gonzalo Peillat shows his class

Gonzalo Peillat scored two goals in the match
Gonzalo Peillat scored two goals in the match

The tussle for an early lead was finally broken in the 2nd quarter, when Argentina earned a penalty corner. Their star drag flicker, Gonzalo Peillat, made no mistake as he shot a crisp flick into the goalpost, earning the crucial lead for Argentina within 2 minutes of the start of the second quarter.

Though down, England was certainly not out. Led by Barry Middleton, the English team went for a complete assault on the Argentine goalpost, and made 5 circle entries, equaling the Argentine total of the same in the 2nd quarter.

The Argentine halo was smashed in the 27th minute, when a crisp shot from Barry Middleton found the way to the Argentine goalpost, outfoxing the skills of Juan Vivaldi. Not only England was back in the game, the old English form seemed to come back in time for a team, that had struggled throughout their journey to the quarterfinals.

#3 England goalkeeper George Pinner holds his nerve

George Pinner
George Pinner

In such a tense situation, sparks were bound to fly. Both teams played aggressively, to the extent that even a couple of them were shown green and yellow cards respectively for exceeding in their aggression level.

Lucas Rossi and Gonzalo Peillat were warned by the umpires for their aggression, and were shown green cards in the 25th minute and 40th minute respectively. Augustin Mazzilli and Ignacio Ortiz had it harder, as they were shown yellow cards in the dying minutes of the match, forcing Argentina to play with only 10 players in the last two minutes of the match.

On the other hand, Ian Sloan of England was shown a green card, while Whil Calnan and Phil Roper were shown yellow cards for their over aggressive behavior on field.

In such an intense match, if someone managed to keep his wits intact, it was the British goalkeeper. With the classic British style of keeping their cool, George was unfazed by the two goals that Peillat had struck against him, for he thwarted the other 4 goal shots, including 3 more penalty corners that came his way.

#2 A nail biting thriller in the end

England turned the match into a nail biting thriller
England turned the match into a nail biting thriller

It was however, the final quarter, that brought out the best in the tussle between Argentina and England. The score was locked 1-1 by the end of the third quarter.

Will Calnan, who was shown a yellow card in the third quarter, scored a goal in the 45th minute, giving England a crucial lead of 2-1. Down but not out, Argentina equalized the score in the 48th minute, with Gonzalo Peillat capitalizing a crucial penalty corner to level the score 2-2.

However, England refused to concede defeat, and within one minute, Harry Martin scored the ultimate goal in the 49th minute, Despite Argentina making a renewed attack, they just couldn't bridge the gap in the last 11 minutes. To make matters worse, two Argentine players were shown the yellow card in the last 5 minutes, forcing Argentina to play with 10 players.

#1 England seal third successive World Cup semifinal

England have entered their third consecutive semifinal
England have entered their third consecutive semifinal

Interestingly, this will be the 3rd semifinal in a row for England. Not only have they made it to the semifinals, they've also taken revenge against Argentina for the 2014 edition.

It's been 8 years since England shocked India by 3-2 to book their tickets for the FIH World Cup 2010 semifinals. Though they finished 4th, this was their best finish since FIH World Cup 1986, when England last entered the semifinals, losing ultimately to Australia in the finals.

Even in 2014, the English team had made it to the semifinals, where they ultimately lost to Argentina in the bronze medal bout by 0-2. So this win was nothing less than a sweet revenge for the English team, who look forward to break the semifinal jinx against the likes of Germany or Belgium, depending on who wins the 3rd quarterfinal.

On the other hand, it is devastating for Argentina, who were riding high on the success of Rio Olympics 2016 and FIH World Hockey League Finals 2017.

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Edited by Ram Kumar


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