The Indian men’s hockey team may have left many of its ardent fans deeply disappointed by failing to finish in the top-8 largely due to their own making, but it somewhat redeem themselves with a convincing 3-0 victory over Korea to finish 9th in the 2014 World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands.
The 8th ranked ‘Yellowshirts’ played as a cohesive unit with the forwardline finally showing the promise they are known for, ‘consistently’ penetrating the 7th ranked Korean ‘D’ prompting the Asia Cup champions to go on the defensive.
SV Sunil, who appeared out of sorts in the World Cup so far, turned over a new leaf, showing lot of purpose upfront, keeping the Korean defence a number of nervous moments. It was Sunil who essayed his ‘all-too familiar’ searing run from the right and fed to Akashdeep Singh, who deflected home at the far post to give India an early lead in the 6th minute.
The Koreans struggled to mount a serious response to the early strike and were pinned in their own half as India assumed control of the midfield with a nice bout of passing play. SV Sunil nearly scored his first goal of the World Cup, when he weaved a move from the right and saw his angular shot graze the far post.
Vokkaliga Raghunath was denied an opportunity to extend India’s advantage when he failed to profit from India’s first penalty corner, thanks to a fine save by Korean goalie Kim. India led 1-0 at half-time.
India doubled the lead in the 43rd minute when Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty stroke after the set-piece was awarded as the fullback’s shot hit the Korean last man off their second penalty corner.
Akashdeep Singh ensured Indian fans at the Kyocera Stadium had more to rejoice as he unleashed a reverse shot, which brooked no answer from Kim in the 48th minute.
Vokkaliga Raghunath had a chance to enhance the scoreline from India’s third penalty corner, but Kim parried a fierce hit with aplomb.
India were reduced to ten men in the 54th minute when Gurbaj Singh was handed a ten-minute yellow card for a harsh tackle on a Korean player midway through the second half. The Koreans failed to make the most of the numerical superiority as India held firm to close out their World Cup campaign on a good note with a scoreline, which should warm the cockles of their hearts.
India also exacted sweet revenge against Korea for the loss to them in the final of the 9th Asia Cup last year. This was India’s only second World Cup win in five meetings having lost three of them on the trot (1998, 2002 and 2006 editions)
The writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org