Junior Hockey World Cup: Indian colts crowned champions, defeat Belgium 2-1 in the finals
In the final encounter of the Junior Hockey World Cup, it was India who came out all guns blazing to clinch the trophy when they handed a 2-1 defeat to the colts from Belgium at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Lucknow.
The home team showcased their superiority from the word-go, with Gurjant Singh and Simranjeet netting one goal each in the first half itself, and then defending their lead all throughout the second half.
India showed glimpses of their class early on in the encounter, dominating the proceedings and winning two penalty corners in the 3rd and 6th minute, but failed to convert any of them. Eventually, after a long bout of possession, Gurjant Singh gave India the lead in the 8th minute with what seemed to be a miracle goal! Regaining control on an aerial pass deep in the circle, he knocked the ball inside the left post after a few touches for an absolutely world-class finish.
In the first 10 minutes of the match, with 8 circle penetrations, the Boys in Blue posed all kinds of questions to the Belgians, who certainly looked out of sort, nerves getting the better of them, especially after conceding the early goal.
The 15 to 20-minute bracket saw Belgium make some amends as they saw more of the ball and subsequently lead an attack through Verheijen and then Raes but it was to no avail as the Indian defence of Dipsan Tirkey, Harmanpreet and Sumit were on point to thwart the attacks.
In the 22nd minute came forth India’s second goal courtesy of a powerful Simranjeet strike. After a superb interception by Vikramjeet and a string of ball rotations inside the Belgian half, Simranjeet who received a perfect pass from Nilakanta, hammered the ball into the back of the net past keeper Van Doren to rest the scoreline at 2-0 in favour of the home team.
The visitors had their first real chance in the 31st minute when they won a penalty corner. Although it was well crafted with perfect injection and the shot was taken, it was deflected just wide of the left post.
On the sidelines, one could easily notice the delight on India coach Harendra Singh’s face. His boys had been all but successful in dictating the tempo of the match, and went into the half-time break with a two-goal lead.
HALF TIME: India 2-0 Belgium
The Belgians seemed to come into the second half with a hint of positivity as they kicked off proceedings and saw more of the ball initially while the Indians, comfortable with their two-goal cushion seemed content to pass the ball around and maintain possession.
At the close of the first ten minutes after the break, Belgium, who had displayed urgency to attack, lost the ball against the run of play to India, with Simranjeet winning a penalty corner in the 48th minute. Harjeet took the shot but Van Doren was successful in clearing the lethal attempt while Nilakanta’s rebound flew out of bounds above the bar.
An opportunity to narrow the lead down to one goal came in the 54th minute for Belgium, but guardian Vikas Dahiya came up with a stunning save to deny Rubens. Meanwhile, in the 60th minute, Gurjant won the ball inside the Belgian half and was one-on-one with the keeper, but Van Doren surged ahead and put in a lion-hearted save to avoid another goal. Subsequently, the hosts won two successive penalty corners in the 62nd minute but were unable to capitalise on them.
Desperate for a goal, Belgium replaced their keeper Van Doren with an outfielder in the 68th minute, while for the Indians, the players on the field looked to just pass away time. In the final minute of the match, two penalty corner were awarded to the visitors, out of which they nailed one to end the match with a 2-1 scoreline. But it did not matter much, as the Indian colts largely over-shadowed them to be crowned the Junior Hockey World Champions!
FULL TIME: India 2-1 Belgium
India became the first host nation to not only reach and win the finals of the Junior Hockey World Cup but Harjeet Singh and Co. outclassed their opponents to end the country’s 15-year trophy drought.