Men's Hockey World Cup 2018: Mandeep and Akashdeep score in first quarter in India's opening game
The 2018 Men's Hockey World Cup is finally underway. With all the matches being played in Odisha, this is the third time the World Cup is being played in India. What's more important is the fact that the winner's trophy has eluded India for the last 43 years, with the country having won their first and last World Cup in 1975 in Malaysia.
In a historic final against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, India won the match by a close margin of 2-1. India have also ended as the runners-up only once in the tournament's history, losing in penalty strokes to home team Netherlands at Amstelveen in 1973.
However, India have a great chance this time around with the World Cup being played at their home. India's men's hockey team is currently ranked fifth in the world, following impressive performances in the last couple of years. India opened their World Cup campaign today against South Africa, who are currently ranked fifteenth in the world.
India will play Belgium and Canada, the other two teams in their pool after today's match. A total of sixteen teams have qualified for the World Cup, with all the teams equally distributed into four pools. The pool matches will be followed by a crossover round, followed by a quarterfinal, semifinal and a final. The final will be played on 16 December.
India looked to attack right upfront in their opening game against South Africa today. Missing a few opportunities in the early minutes, India finally converted in the tenth minute, with Mandeep Singh drawing first blood. Harmanpreet's drag flick on a penalty corner was saved by South Africa's goalkeeper, but while he recovered, Mandeep made full use of the opportunity to shoot the ball into the goal.
Just two minutes later, Akashdeep Singh scored another goal to give India a great early advantage going into the break after the first quarter. Hardik and Birendra Lakra did well to tackle with South Africa's defenders and provide Akashdeep with a challenging opportunity to score a goal from a difficult angle and he obliged.
Let's hope India keeps up the good work and fares well in this game as well as other big games to follow in this World Cup.
Head to Sportskeeda to check out the World Cup Hockey schedule for the upcoming matches at the Men's Hockey World Cup 2018.