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FIH Men's Series Finals Bhubaneswar: Hosts India Qualify Into Semis

10 June 2019


Bhubaneswar: The difference in the FIH World Rankings (India 5th, Uzbekistan 43rd) predicted a tough challenge for the Uzbek side. Despite their remarkable heart and engagement shown throughout the Pool phase, that proved to be the case.

India dominated in the first quarter converting three penalty corners into three goals from Varun Kumar, Akashdeep Singh and Amit Rohidas. 

A similar pattern followed in the next quarter. Varun Kumar and Akashdeep Singh each scored a second goal, while Nilakanta Sharma and Mandeep Singh ensured that their names were displayed on the scoresheet before half-time. 

The tempo decreased in the second half. The hosts were enjoying most of the ball possession and added another goal shortly before the end of the third quarter, with Gursahibjit Singh concluding a fine three-player combination. 

In the last quarter, Akashdeep Singh scored his hat-trick, slotting the ball home from short distance, before Mandeep Singh rounded his team’s domination with the tenth goal of the night. 

India’s captain Manpreet Singh: “It was really important for us to finish at the top of the pool because now we can rest for one match and prepare for the semi-finals. We did many good things during this pool phase but still there is some improvement needed, so we will work and come back good in the semi-finals.” 

South Africa - Mexico 

The African champions could hardly hope for a better start. In the first minute of the game, Matthew de Sousa netted the goal with a deflected shot, following a penalty corner. This had the honour of being the fastest goal of the tournament so far. 

A few minutes later, South Africa’s captain Keenan Horne came close to doubling the lead, also through a deflection, but his attempt failed. Then, Mexican goalkeeper Jose Hernandez showed his talent again as he cleared a shot on goal from a penalty corner in the last minute of the first quarter. 

The start of the second quarter was a replica of the first one. In the second minute, Nicholas Spooner converted a fine drag-flick from a penalty corner to give his team a 2-0 lead. South Africa were enjoying most of the ball possession, while Mexico were focused on defending and struggling to move towards their opponents’ half. 

South Africa proved to be particularly prolific in the early stages of each of the quarters of this game. Indeed, less than two minutes into the third, Nqobile Ntuli converted a delightful team movement to score South Africa’s third goal.

In the final quarter, Austin Smith added another goal from a penalty corner to take his team’s tally to four. But this did not alter the confidence of the young Mexican team who spared no efforts to score at least once in this game. They had a good chance to do this from a penalty corner but Rassie Pieterse cleared it well. On the contrary, it was South Africa who were to increase their lead with a marvelous goal from Richard Pautz. His goal came from a deflection which lobbed Mexico’s goalkeeper. Team captain Keenan Horne added a sixth goal for his team.

South Africa’s Nqobile Ntuli, Man of the Match: “We started slowly in the tournament. We didn’t get the results we wanted upfront. But we’ve slowly built ourselves and we got a result tonight that will give us confidence.”