For once, India avoided a last-minute shame, when they took on Spain on Thursday in a Pool A match at Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Neither side wanted a draw from this game but such hopes remained in the realm of wishful thinking with the match ending in a 1-1 draw. In Thursday’s other matches, Japanese and Korean women drew 1-1, Australian men and women finished victors, England’s men beat Malaysia and women from the host nation beat their New Zealand counterparts.
The India-Spain game provided some entertainment to hockey lovers as both teams created scoring opportunities, though Spain appeared the dominant side. In the 7th minute, Spain’s captain Santi Freixa intercepted a move by India and his pass allowed Roc Oliva to move into the Indian penalty area, where he was fouled. but Indian goal keeper Sreejesh made a brilliant save, when Spain took the penalty corner. The first half was full of threats from one side to another but none of these moves resulted in goals. In 28th minute, however, a great move by Mandeep Singh was wrongly challenged by Spain’s defender Sergi Enrique and the umpire awarded a penalty stroke to India. Rupinder Singh’s shot put India 1-0 ahead. The lead did not last long as Roc Oliva collected a pass from his captain in 34th minute and his booming shot from the top of the circle made it 1-1. When the teams came back after halftime, the fast-paced game resumed once more. Freixa was brilliant in feeding his forwards regularly but attempts on the Indian goal were either off the target or marvelously saved by Sreejesh. One such move from the Spain captain was an overhead through pass to David Alegre, who raced as he scooped the ball over the onrushing Sreejesh’s head. While the ball went wide off the post, Alegre collided with Sreejesh and hurt himself so badly that he had to be taken off the field. The match ended 1-1 much to the disappointment for both sides.
In another pool A match, the Englishmen registered their second win of the tournament by beating Malaysia 2-0. England went on attack immediately after the game began. In the 4th minute, Barry Middleton waited for Gleghorne to get a vantage position and Gleghorne showed an uncanny presence of mind in scooping in the goal with the reverse stick even as the goalkeeper rushed forward. England’s second goal came from a late penalty corner struck in the 66th minute. The game was largely dominated by England but they couldn’t find the target more often.
In men’s last Pool A match, Australia defeated Belgium 3-1. The victory sealed Australia’s entry to the semifinal with a 100% win record. The Australian superiority was evident from their scoring 2 goals in nine minutes from start; first by an awesome drag flick from Chris Ciriello in the 7th minute and second from Jacob Whetton two minutes later. It was 3-0 for Australia one minute after the halftime, when Eddie Ockenden deftly used his reverse stick strike into the goal.
In women’s Pool A, Australia scored their third 3-2 win in a row and this time it was Belgium. In a close match dominated by the Australians in early stages, proceeding slowed down after a while. In a see-saw battle later on, Australia took an early lead as Anna Flanagan scored from a 16th minute penalty corner but by half time Belgium squared it to 1-1. Three minutes after halftime, Jodie Kenny’s penalty corner put Australia ahead once again but the lead didn’t last more than 4 minutes as Belgium’s Jill Boon equalized. The 54th minute goal for Australia through a penalty stroke by Kenny decided Australia’s 3-2 victory.
In an entertaining match, Korean women drew 1-1 level with Japan. In an evenly matched game, Korea scored through Kim Jongeun to give her country a 1-0 halftime lead. Japan played much better in the second half and equalized in the 37th minute from a penalty corner by Shihori Oikawa. Both sides tried hard in the decider but finally settled for a draw.
In women’s last match on Thursday, hosts Netherlands beat New Zealand 2-0 with both goals coming in the first half. In the 5th minute, Van Den Heuvel smartly deflected a drag flick by Eva De Goede for the 1-0 lead and 5 minutes before half time Kim Lammers scored another brilliant goal. Though both side tried their tricks in the second half, no more goals could be scored.