Junior Hockey World Cup: India come from behind to progress to the last four
India started out with no changes from their win against South Africa, as they booked their place in the semi-final of the Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow by defeating Spain in the quarter-finals in what was a hard-fought comeback from the home side
Despite starting out with an attacking side full of pace and penetration, India had a stuttering start and they got punished by Spain’s Marc Serrahima, 22 minutes into the game. Spain concentrated on defending a lot and applied good pressure on India’s attackers while the hosts were vying for a goal.
Pol Parilla not only punished India by setting up Spain’s goal via a penalty corner, he was also a menace running down the right flank. The visitors later came close to adding a second when a cross from the left wing couldn’t be connected by the poacher.
India, however, also had their fair share of chances. Dominating the first quarter with more possession, they managed to win two penalty corners within the first 10 minutes of the game, one of which they wasted due to poor ball control by Harmanpreet Singh. The second penalty corner, on the other hand, this time with Varun Kumar as the drag flicker, was where they forced a save from Spanish keeper Albert Perez.
The closest India came to finding an opener in the first half was when Mandeep Singh’s effort from Santa Singh’s cross turned out to be a goal, but it was disallowed due to Mandeep’s and the defender's hockey sticks clashing before the ball went in.
The second half was a different game altogether, as India dominated majority of the period with their attacks. Their first chance came when Manpreet Singh came the closest to scoring India’s equalizer with 24 minutes left to play but his shot was saved by the Spain goalkeeper Albert Perez.
Eventually, the Indian junior side broke down what looked to be a well set up Spanish defence when they scored the equalizer as Simranjeet pounced on a rebound. The goal came via India’s fifth penalty corner of the game, and the third consecutive corner after two incredible saves by the Spanish keeper Perez.
After scoring the equalizer, the floodgates opened for India as they instantly went on to earn two more penalty corners, eventually scoring in their third one, this time through well-placed powerful shot by Harmanpreet Singh, who scored his third goal of the tournament. India took the lead for the first time in the evening with only 3 minutes of the match remaining.
All in all, the Indian juniors hockey team showcased their never-give-up and die-hard attitude in this match as they came from behind against Spain who scored with their only shot on the target compared to India’s 10. The Man of the Match was awarded to the popular Harmandeep Singh.
Now a tough test awaits for the winning side in the semi-finals as they face Australia on December 16.