Hockey World League Final: India go down to Argentina in semis, to play for bronze

Gonzalo Peillat scored the only goal as Argentina defeated India 1-0 in the semifinals of the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar on Friday

other sports Updated: Dec 09, 2017 12:41 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Hockey World League Final,Indian men's national hockey team,FIH Hockey World League Final
India lost 1-0 to Argentina in the semifinals of the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar on Friday.(Hockey India)

India continued to be dogged by the same old frailties as they lost to Rio Olympic Games champions Argentina in the semi-final of the Hockey World League Final by a solitary goal here on Friday. It was déjà vu for the hosts as they had lost the semi-final to Belgium in the 2015 edition at Raipur by the same margin, eventually taking bronze after defeating the Dutch in shoot-out. (IND v ARG HIGHLIGHTS)

On Friday, Argentine drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat converted the lone penalty corner his side earned into a goal to seal victory and a place in the final. India will now take on the loser of the Australia vs Germany match in the bronze-medal contest on Sunday.

A downpour ensured the teams played the game in slow motion. While the Argentines went for the aerials and overheads, the Indians relied on short passes to breach the packed rival defence, lest they got penalised for dangerous play.

This, though, proved counterproductive for India, who could not play a fluid passing game and found tackling on sodden turf a difficult task. Argentina capitalised on the only penalty-corner opportunity in the second quarter with Peillat coming up with a last-minute improvisation to flummox the hosts. He positioning himself a few metres left of his normal position to reduce the distance the ball had to travel through sopping wet turf and flicked the ball into the left corner of the goal between goalkeeper Akash Chikte and Varun Kumar in the 17th minute.

It was these minor adjustments the more experienced Argentines --- who have six players in their 30s --- made that earned them rich dividends.

A desperate India, who had a thrilling 3-3 (3-2) win in sudden death against Belgium in the quarter-final, raised the tempo of their attacks in the last two quarters but to no avail. Skipper Manpreet Singh was penalised for a foul on his opponent during a sliding tackle and was sent off for 10 minutes with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, thus breaking the rhythm.

Reduced to 10 men, India had to put in a lot of effort to secure their defence. Once he was back early in the third quarter, the Indians raised their game and managed back-to-back penalty corners in the 36th minute, but to no avail. Rupinder Pal Singh’s first PC went over the bar, while the next one was ably deflected by goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi.

Gurjant Singh’s shot in the 50th minute was cleared at ease, while Mandeep Singh’s reverse-hit went out after hitting a defender’s stick.

The last few minutes had plenty of excitement as India withdrew goalkeeper Chikte and fielded Chinglensana Kangujam as a ‘free-man’, sporting the goalkeeper’s jersey. Though this helped India push forward assertively, a counter attack in the 58th minute almost fetched Argentina a second goal. But captain Matias Paredes shot into the sideboard of an open goal.

Earlier, the Netherlands defeated England by a solitary goal to finish seventh. Mirco Pruijser struck the all-important goal in the 42nd minute.

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 23:34 IST