Hosts and former champions India scripted a new chapter in hockey history, regaining the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup after a gap of 15 years, defeating Belgium 2-1 in the final at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in Lucknow on Sunday. The Cup adds another jewel to India’s golden hockey history, which boasts of eight Olympic titles and one World Cup at the senior level.
In the process of winning their second title, India achieved another first as this was the first time that a host nation has won the Cup in 11 editions.
Playing their third final ever in the Junior World Cup, India, who won their maiden Cup in 2001 in Hobart, Australia, and had finished runners-up in 1997 at Milton Keynes, came up on top when it mattered the most.
Gurjant Singh and Simranjeet Singh scored for India as Harjeet Singh and Co left the 17,000-odd crowd celebrating the New Year in advance. Fans started dancing to Bollywood numbers as soon as the final hooter blared. Interestingly, it was after Belgium scored their only goal off a penalty-corner seconds before the hooter. With the crowd chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Jitega Bhai Jitega India Jitega and Jiski Field, Uski Shield’ India dominated the proceedings from the start and never allowed Belgium to pose any serious threat.
Highlights of the Match
They ran like a well-oiled machine, and kept toying with the Belgians. Unlike their 10th place finish in their last appearance on home turf in 2013 in New Delhi, India had a great start in the final too.
India earned two penalty-corners in the first six minutes of the game, but both went in vain. It was a quick-moving Gurjant, who had everybody in the stadium celebrating as India translated their dominance into their first goal, scoring in the eight minute from the left-flank with a reverse hit.
In fact, Sumit scooped the ball well, which bounced back after hitting the Belgian keeper Loic Van Doren’s chest, and before he could clear the ball Gurjant pounced on the opportunity and swung his stick to see the ball zoom into the net. India scored their second goal in the 22nd minute when Simranjeet too struck a field goal on an accurate cross from Nilkanta Sharma.
With nothing to lose, Belgium gave their all in the final few minutes and managed to secure two consecutive penalty-corners just 20 seconds from the final hooter, the second of which was converted by Van Bockrijck to give some consolation to the visitors.
Six-time champions and title holders Germany pocketed the bronze medal earlier in the day, defeating Australia 3-0 in the third-fourth place play-off match.
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Source: Hindustan Times