By Elton Gomes
Debutants China produced a gritty show in their maiden Hockey World Cup match to hold England to a 2-2 draw in a Pool B match in Bhubaneswar on Friday.
England started the match as overwhelming favourites, but the Chinese stunned their opponents early in the game when Xiaoping Gao scored a brilliant field goal in the 5th minute. Xiaoping scored from a tight angle after dribbling past three defenders.
The English then went on the offensive and finally managed to equalise a minute from the first quarter when Mark Gleghorne (14th) converted a penalty corner.
A silly defensive mistake by Yang Ao inside the box allowed England to take the lead through Liam Ansell in the 48th minute. But the Chinese continued to show sparks in patches, and continued to threaten the English with swift counter-attacks. China’s persistence finally bore fruit and broke English hearts a minute before the final whistle.
Australia defeat Ireland 2-1
Defending champions Australia’s quest for a record hat-trick of titles began with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Ireland in the opening Pool B match of the men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 on Friday.
Starting out as firm favourites, Australia were far from impressive and were made to toil by Ireland in their opener.
Blake Govers (11th minute) and Tim Brand scored for Australia while Ireland’s lone goal came from Shane O’Donoghue. The Irish put on a valiant display and matched the title holders stick-for-stick in the first two quarters.
For Australia, hoping to become the first nation to win three successive titles, Friday’s match will be a wake-up call. Half of their side is playing for the first time in the World Cup.
“Ireland played well and gave us a tough challenge. We are happy that we won the match, but at the same time we need to fix some of the areas where we didn’t perform well in today’s match,” Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter said after the match, as per a report in Hindustan Times.
Argentina eke out a 4-3 win over Spain
Agustin Mazzilli and Gonzalo Peillat scored a brace each to help Olympic champions Argentina edge past Spain in a 4-3 win. Argentina had to give their all to get the better of a fighting Spanish side, which matched their rivals in every department throughout.
Mazzilli (4th, 15th minutes) and Peillat (15th, 49th) were the goal scorers for Argentina, while Spain’s goals came from the sticks of Enrique Gonzalez (3rd), Josep Romeu (14th), and Vicenc Ruiz (35th).
Spain stunned the Argentines as early as in the third minute through Gonzalez’s fine field strike past. But a minute later, Argentina were level through Mazzilli after he deflected in a cross from the right wing past Spain’s goalkeeper Quico Cortes.
The match seemed to be equally poised going into the final quarter, with both Argentina and Spain pressing hard for more goals to win the match. But Argentina’s efforts paid off when Peillat was again on target from another penalty corner in the 49th minute.
Thereafter, Spain used all tactics, including withdrawing their goalkeeper for an extra player four minutes from the final hooter, but failed to breach the Argentine defence.
In the second match on November 29, New Zealand pipped France 2-1 in their opening game of the Hockey World Cup 2018 at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar.
India begin campaign with comprehensive win
India started their Hockey World Cup 2018 campaign with a 5-0 win against South Africa in their Pool C encounter at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. In the first match of the tournament, an unimpressive Belgium saw the better of Canada and sealed a 2-1 victory.
The Manpreet Singh-led Indian side dominated South Africa in all the four quarters of the game, as Singh himself opened the scoring in the tenth minute of the first quarter.
After Akashdeep Singh scored India’s second goal in the 12th minute of the same quarter, South Africa lost their steam, and almost allowed India to score three more in the match.
In the initial stages of the third quarter, India missed a couple of chances. However, India made a dominating comeback as they decimated hopes of South Africa winning the match. India scored two back-to-back goals in the 43rd and 45th minute of the match.
Midfielder Simranjeet Singh and forward Lalit Upadhyay showed quick reflexes to strike the consecutive goals. The victory will surely be a confidence-booster for India, who will play their next group stage match on December 2 against Belgium.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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