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Hockey World Cup 2018: Peillat on target, Argentina down Spain in thriller

In the very second minute of the match, Spain showed their class when Enrique Gonzalez opened the account with a beautiful field goal after Argentina lost the ball inside their attacking zone.

other sports Updated: Nov 29, 2018 20:05 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Hockey World Cup 2018,Gonzalo Peillat,Argentina
Argentina players celebrate a goal during the field hockey group stage match between Argentina and Spain at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar on November 29, 2018(AFP)

A day before their World Cup opener against Olympic champions and world No 2 Argentina, Spanish coach Fred Soyez had said the only way to stop their rivals was to play defence and restrict them from forcing penalty corners. That was because Soyez knew how lethal Argentina’s drag flicker Gonzalo Peillat can be. Once he gets an opportunity to showcase his flick, nobody can stop him was the fear, such has been Peillat’s conversion rate.

In the 2014 World Cup, he was the highest scorer with 10 goals, with a penalty corner conversion rate of over 70 percent. On Thursday, the same thing happened. Despite putting up their best effort and enthralling the crowd till the end with quality hockey and taking the lead twice, Spain couldn’t stop the juggernaut of Peillat as the Olympic champions won in a 4-3 thriller in Pool A.

Peillat struck twice and so did Agustin Mazzilli to help Argentina start with victory. New Zealand and France are the other teams in the group.

Statistics of the last five matches played between the sides gave a clear edge to the South American side. Argentina had won four, and the one that went in favour of Spain was played in Bhubaneswar during the 2017 World League Final. On Thursday, Argentina avenged defeat in their previous encounter in Bhubaneswar.

“Being the first match of the tournament, it was a tough game. Spain is always a tough opponent. Since it was the first game of the tournament there were lapses in play from both teams. But thankfully we have an awesome weapon, the best drag-flicker in the world (Peillat). Today also he changed the course of the game,” said Mazzilli, who scored in the first quarter of the match.

“Since we are the defending Olympic champions, it increases the pressure on us. We have to fill the gaps that we noticed today. We have a very experienced team, so it helps in making accurate calculations against the side we are playing against -- the style of our opponents and where we can catch them on the wrong foot.”

Spain, nicknamed Red Sticks, didn’t seem to be overawed taking the field against a team ranked seven slots higher. Both the sides gave an equally intense performance and each of the four quarters looked like four different matches were being played. The first quarter was 3-2 in favour of Argentina, the second a draw. The third went 1-0 in favour of Spain while the fourth was again ruled by Argentina, who eventually made it 4-3.

In the very second minute of the match, Spain showed their class when Enrique Gonzalez opened the account with a beautiful field goal after Argentina lost the ball inside their attacking zone.

But in no time Argentina pulled back an equaliser when Agustin deflected a cross from the right at the far post, giving no chance to Spain goalkeeper Quico Cortes.

Spain was again in the lead when in the 13th minute they earned the first penalty corner of the match. Adopting a variation, Josep Romeu beat the goalkeeper with a shot to the far post. The very next minute, Peillat got an opportunity to showcase his talent and made it 2-2. In no time, Agustin put Argentina in the driver’s seat, with a penalty corner conversion after the hooter had gone for the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Argentina’s Tomas Bettaglio (27th minute) got a green card, but Spain couldn’t take advantage. They were back in the game again when Vicenc Ruiz scored a field goal in the 35thminute. But Peillat stood tall between Spain and win. He again made no mistake to make it 4-3 in favour of Argentina in the 49th minute.

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 19:52 IST