India crashed out of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup, losing 4-5 to New Zealand in a sudden death shootout at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday, leaving thousands of fans disappointed.
Leading 3-1 at one stage, the Indians failed to capitalise on their opportunities and allowed the opponents to level the match 3-3 at the end of regulation time. India earned as many as 11 penalty corners in the game, but converted only two of them into goals. That sums up India’s story.
Thanks to the heroics of seasoned goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who pulled off a couple of brilliant saves, India fought back to 3-3 in the shootout and had two golden chances in the sudden death, but Shamsher Singh missed the final effort to lose 4-5, leading to heartbreak for the home crowd at the jampacked stadium.
India coach Graham Reid later confessed that missed chances, especially the failure to convert penalty corners, led to the home team’s exit from the tournament.
While Lalit Upadhyaya, Sukhjeet Singh and Varun Kumar scored for India in regulation time Sam Lane, Kane Russel and Sean Findlay were on target for the New Zealanders.
It was a fast-paced match initially dominated by the Indians, who went ahead by two goals much to the delight of the home crowd. While Lalit scored the first goal in the 17th minute of the game, the second came from the stick of Sukhjeet in the 24th minute through a penalty corner.
But New Zealand hit back through Sam, who scored a field goal in the 28th minute of the game.
The fifth-ranked India struck again in the third quarter with Varun scoring in the 40th minute for his team. Leading 3-1, the hosts perhaps lost a bit of focus and that led to New Zealand’s stunning comeback.
First, Russell converted a penalty corner for his team in the 43rd minute to make 2-3and then Findlay struck the equaliser, again from a penalty corner, to silence the home crowd.
In the penalty shootout, both the India goalkeepers, Sreejesh and Krishan Pathak, showed great skills saving four goals out of nine strikes. Sreejesh sustained an injury during the shootout and was replaced by Pathak.
However, the Indians succumbed to pressure and seniors failed to shine on the big stage. Shamsher, Sukhjeet, captain Harmanpreet Singh and Abhisek all faltered in the shootout.
While Harmanpreet converted one out of his two attempts in the shootout, Shamsher failed to score from any of his two opportunities.
In the other crossover match of the day, Spain beat Malaysia 4-3, also in penalty shootout, to qualify for the quarter finals after the two sides were locked 2-2 in regulation time.