India qualified for the crossovers round of Hockey World Cup 2023 with a victory against Wales in their last Pool D fixture, here at Bhubaneshwar’s Kalinga Stadium on Thursday, 19 January. Graham Reed’s team had to face a more stern challenge than they possibly expected, but ultimately displayed enough strength and character to clinch a 4-2 win.
The boys in blue dominated proceedings from the first minute, but Wales ensured that they do not give away anything without putting up the staunchest of fights. The likes of Mandeep Singh and Nilakanta Sharma had chances to score in the first quarter, but could not do so.
The first goal of the night came from a penalty corner in the 22nd minute. After India’s drag-flick specialist, Harmanpreet Singh had his shot blocked by a Welsh player, midfielder Shamsher Singh tucked home the rebound to open the scoring and send a packed Kalinga Stadium into raptures.
There were no further goals in the second quarter, but it took India all but three minutes to double their lead in the third quarter. Having received a pass from Mandeep, Akashdeep Singh struck the ball into the net to score his first goal of the tournament, and his team’s second goal of the game.
The hosts were sailing after securing a two-goal advantage, but the complexion of the game changed in the 43rd minute, when Wales reduced the deficit. Gareth Furlong, who plies his trade for England’s renowned Surbiton Hockey Club, hit an accurate drag-flick from a penalty corner to make it 2-1.
Before India could regain composure, they saw their advantage vanish into thin air as Danny Newcombe’s men made the scoreline 2-2 just before the conclusion of the quarter. Furlong came up with yet another powerful flick, and while the veteran goalkeeper, PR Sreejesh was equal to the task and made a save, defender Jacob Draper scored from the rebound.
India Bounced Back Instantaneously
Reed needed his team to start the fourth quarter on a high, and his players obliged by scoring in the first minute itself. Having opened his tally earlier in the match, 28-year-old Akashdeep scored his second goal, and crucially, restored India’s lead in the match.
India would have been fairly content with the 3-2 scoreline, but to make things even better, they scored a fourth goal very late into the game.
While he might not have had the best of days, the team’s skipper and most lethal goal threat, Harmanpreet finally got his name to the scoresheet from a penalty corner in the 60th minute.
With this victory, India finished second in Pool D, with England finishing as group toppers owing to a superior goal difference. In the cross-over match, India will face New Zealand on Sunday, 22 January. The fixture will be played at the same venue.