Three minutes of madness resulted in three goals that put paid to India’s hopes of finishing seventh in the FIH Hockey World Cup here on Friday. Jose Brasa’s men, who had dominated in the first session but found the Argentina defence virtually impregnable, suddenly forgot that they also had to defend. They allowed the Argentine forwards, especially Lukas Vila and Mario Almada, a free run and paid the price.
Argentina rode on three goals — between 43rd and 46th minute — to emerge 4-2 winners in a seesaw battle as India finished eighth, equalling the worst-ever finish for a host nation. They joined Argentina (1978) and Malaysia (2002) who finished eighth as hosts.
The seventh spot was for the taking as India had beaten
virtually the same Argentine squad to win bronze in the Champions Challenge-I at Salta, Argentina, last year. They had things going their way too as they took control of the match early. However, they found the Argentine defence a tough nut to crack.
Against the run of play, Argentina scored in the 28th minute off a swift counter-attack. Tomas Argento controlled a long overhead ball from his defence and tipped it over Adrian D’Souza.
The Indians were still in the hunt and looked set to take control when they earned a penalty-stroke after skipper Matias Vila was penalised for a hard tackle. Sandeep Singh stepped forward and beat Argentine goalkeeper Juan Espinosa to make it 1-1 in the 43rd. But then came three minutes of mayhem. Argentina surged ahead within seconds of the restart when Lucas Villa flicked the ball home off their first penalty-corner. They were 3-1 up as the Indian defence allowed Mario Almada a clear run into the circle and Lucas Vila slotted his pass into the net.
Another minute, another goal. Almada and Lucas Vila combine well to get the ball to Facundo Callioni to make it 4-1. Shivendra Singh reduces the margin in the 49th minute raising hopes but the Indians failed to score despite some good attempts.