The quarterfinals stage has come to an end in FIH Hockey World Cup, and with that, sadly, the dream run of the hosts, India, has also ended.
Despite putting up a good fight, the jinx of conceding a goal in the last 10 minutes proved too bad for the hosts and they lost to Netherlands by 1-2, smashing the hope of making it to the final four after 43 years.
The hosts began impressively, with Akashdeep Singh scoring on a rebound from the penalty corner that was awarded to India in the 12th minute.
However, they couldn't smile for long as Thierry Brinkman equalized the score in the 15th minute. From there, it was a tussle for the ball for two whole quarters.
Contrary to what people expected, India were on a roll, thwarting every attack made by the Dutch team.
The team already struggled on converting penalty corners, and were unable to convert 17 of their 21 penalty corners. However, the same was with the Indian team, who missed two brilliant opportunities to take the lead in the match.
The final quarter was expected to be the ultimate showdown, and so it was. For five minutes, the tussle between India and Netherlands was as fierce as the 2015 FIH World Hockey League Finals' bronze medal bout.
However, the age old jinx came to haunt India once again as Netherlands earned their 5th penalty corner, and this time, Mink Van Der Weeden wasted no moment in capitalizing the opportunity to the advantage of the Dutch.
Try as they might, the Indians couldn't make a comeback, and their dream to break the medal drought ended with the quarterfinals.
Though they earned their best position since the 1982 World Cup, ending 6th overall, it was still not enough as India has been evicted from medal contention.
#3 Permin Blaak
Even though Theirry Brinkman and Mink Van Der Weeden earned the honors of a third semifinal in a row for Netherlands, it was Permin Blaak, the goalkeeper, who actually came to the rescue for Netherlands.
Come what may, despite India's incessant attacks, they couldn't materialize them into goals after the lone goal in the 12th minute.
A lion's share of the credit should go to the Dutch goalkeeper Permin Blaak, who hasn't forgotten the humiliation of 2015 as of yet, when he conceded a penalty stroke to Rupinder Pal Singh, which gave India a historic bronze medal in a major FIH tournament after 33 years.
Apart from the dubious umpiring, Permin Blaak was another standout performance of the match.
Despite Netherlands taking the lead, India had ample time to equalize the score and force them for a penalty shootout. However, if they failed to make it, it was due to this very goalkeeper, against whom they succeeded earlier : Permin Blaak.
#2 Akashdeep Singh
The link man for his team, Akashdeep Singh was the lone man who shone for India. Having stormed to limelight by avoiding India lowly places in the 2014 FIH World Cup, Akashdeep broke through the defence more than once in the 2018 World Cup to give India an advantage.
In the 12th minute, when the drag flickers missed on the penalty corner, Akashdeep Singh capitalized on the rebound to score the goal for Team India, giving them a crucial lead of 1-0. He was the only Indian who scored a goal in the match against Netherlands.
Had it not been for poor umpiring, and the last quarter jinx for Team India, Akashdeep's goal could've inspired the Indians to go for the kill, and who knows, maybe create history?
Even though India has been knocked out, Akashdeep shall be remembered for his exploits, that helped India sail through the quarterfinals without a sweat.
#1 Mink Van Der Weeden
Until the quarterfinals, Netherlands had a looming 'Achilles' Heel' in terms of penalty corners. They had earned some 21 penalty corners till the quarterfinals, of which they managed to convert barely four in total.
As they met India, everyone anticipated the latter to exploit this very weakness to their advantage.
It almost worked for Team India as well. Netherlands had earned four penalty corners in the first three quarters, none of which managed to find the mouth of the Indian goal.
Thanks to a brilliant defence, led by goalkeeper P R Sreejesh, India managed to keep Netherlands at bay. However, one man had other plans.
Refusing to cow down to the Indian challenge, Mink van der Weeden, one of the Dutch stalwarts in terms of earning penalty corners, continued mounting attacks on the Indian side, and found success in the 50th minute, when Netherlands earned their fifth penalty corner.
This time, luck was on the Dutch side as Van der Weeden scored the goal with elan, giving Netherlands a third ticket to the semifinals in a row.