The Indian men's junior hockey team moved a step closer to defending their World Cup title when they got the better of Belgium 1-0 in a pulsating quarter-final at the Kalinga Stadium on Wednesday.
Shardanand Tiwari scored the lone goal of the match in the 21st minute when he flicked high into the goal from the left of the circle, off a penalty corner.
The highlight of the win was the way the Indian defense worked in tandem with the midfield.
The Indian men's hockey team coach Graham Reid lauded the Indian backline after the match and said the team had improved a lot from their first match against France. He said:
"It was a good result. Our defense was much better than our first game against France. We did a lot of work on it. The good part is we know we can play much better. But, we still have some work to do. We will look at today's clips and pick out the things we need to fix and work on."
Reid, who is overseeing the Indian men's junior team as a High Performance Director, lauded the calm and composed mindset of the Indian junior hockey team when put under relentless pressure by Belgium.
''One of the things I talk a lot about is focusing and making sure that whenever we are on the pitch, we live in the present about whatever we are doing. Every ball, every detail counts. The Indian team showed that tonight. Calmness comes from being prepared. If you are prepared that helps," he added.
Indian team executed game plan well
Belgium had more shots, circle penetrations, possession, and penalty corners, but it was India who emerged winners thanks to their resilience.
Belgium piled on the pressure in the final stages and were boosted by a yellow card five-minute suspension for India’s Yashdeep Siwach, who looked capable of tying the match and forcing a shoot-out.
A late penalty corner for Belgium arrived moments after they replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player, but India's goalkeeper Pawan produced two vital saves to send his team into the semi-finals.
India’s Vishnukant Singh, who was named the Player of the Match, said it was a tough match but the Indian team made sure to execute their plans completely. He said:
“With the plan we had, we tried to execute that but still a few things couldn’t happen. It was a really tough match. We cannot underestimate our opponents. Our plan was to win and it is important that we enjoy that."
Belgium captain Dylan Englebert said it was a great game of hockey and rued the fact that they weren't able to take the game to the shoot-outs.
"I think it was beautiful to watch, great action and we did our best. With a bit more luck we might have scored and gone to shoot-outs. Of course, we are disappointed, but I’m proud of my team and proud of what we did. I think we gave everything, and that is what we are happy about."