Lucknow: India won the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup after a gap of 15 long years with a clinical 2-1 victory against Belgium in the final, here on Sunday.
The hosts scored two beautifully crafted field goals in the first half through Gurjant Singh (8th minute) and Simranjeet Singh (22nd) while controlling the proceedings for better part of the game to emerge as deserving winners.
Having finished a lowly 13th in the last edition of the tournament in New Delhi, it was a mission for the hosts to rewrite history and the hosts duly achieved that riding on its brilliant performance in the 11th edition of the event.
It turned out to be a historic day for India as they reclaimed the title for the second time in the history of the tournament. India had last won the tournament way back in 2001 in Hobart.
It was also the first time that a host nation had won the tournament since its inception.
Indians produced a clinical performance which the team’s coaching staff was eyeing for in order to revive the fortunes of the game in a nation.
Belgium scored a late consolation goal through Fabrice van Bockrijck’s penalty corner conversion in the 70th minute. With the title in sight, the Indians went on the offensive from the word go and put the Belgian defence under tremendous pressure with continuous raids.
India’s relentless pressure on the opposition striking circle earned them two penalty corners in the opening six minutes but as has been the case in the tournament so far, the hosts wasted both the opportunities. But it didn’t take India too long to surge ahead as they drew the first blood in the eighth minute through Gurjant’s fantastic field strike. The goal was set up by brilliant scoop from Sumit from the deep which ricocheted from the Belgian goalkpeer’s chestguard on to Gurjant’s sticks and the lanky striker pounced on the opportunity and unleashed a fierce reverse hit from a tight angle to beat the Loic van Doren all ends up.
A minute later Nilkanta Sharma came tantalisingly close to hand India a two-goal advantage but his shot from top of the circle went just wide. The Indians kept up the pressure and doubled their lead in the 22nd minute through Simranjeet’s reverse shot from top of the circle after he was fed by a measured pass from Nilkanta.
Belgium went for goals and in the process secured their first penalty corner in the 30th minute but the opportunity went wasted as the hosts went into breather with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, six-time champions and title holders Germany had to contend themselves with the bronze medal after outclassing Australia 3-0 in the third-fourth place play-off match.
Its worth mentioning here that Pakistan was denied participation in the tournament by the Indian authorities based on political reasons, which made Pakistan Hockey Federation’s secretary Shahbaz Ahmad Senior to say that Pakistan wont take part in any event organized in India .