Determined India stun Belgium to seal semis spot

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Indian players celebrate after winning their quarterfinal match against Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.

Bhubaneswar, December 6: Host nation India caused a massive upset on the first of two days of quarter-final action at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final at the Kalinga Stadium on Wednesday.

India, who finished fourth in Pool B, claimed a stunning shoot-out victory over Belgium’s Red Lions, a team that came into the contest on the back of three straight victories.

The day’s other winner Australia will face a semi-final meeting against either Germany or Netherlands, two sides that meet in the quarter-finals on Thursday (December 7). India’s semi-final opponents will come from the winner of Thursday’s quarter-final clash between England and Olympic champions Argentina.

FIH Hockey World League Final: India enters semifinals after defeating Belgium

The Kalinga Stadium was a cauldron of deafening noise for a belting match between Pool A winners Belgium and host nation India, who finished fourth in Pool B but produced a stunning performance against their higher-ranked opponents. The lively SV Sunil twice came close to opening the scoring for India in the first half, with the Red Lions having a goal ruled out by the video umpire due to a back stick.

One minute into the second half, the mammoth crowd erupted with joy when Gurjant Singh forced home from close range to give India a shock lead against the pre-match favourites, an advantage that was doubled four minutes later thanks to a ferocious penalty corner flick from Harmanpreet Singh.

The Red Lions were stunned, but regained their composure to score twice either side of the third quarter break. Both goals were penalty corners that came from the stick of Loick Luypaert, who took his competition tally to a remarkable eight in four matches.

India hit back almost immediately when Rupinder Pal Singh scored a penalty corner, but a deflected goal from Belgium's Amaury Keusters took the score to 3-3 and forced the match into the most entertaining and dramatic of shoot-outs.

India lead the shoot-out 2-0 after three efforts each, but Belgium forced sudden-death by scoring both of their two remaining efforts while India failed to convert. Harmanpreet Singh scored what proved to be the winner while Arthur van Doren was unable to beat India shot-stopper Akash Chikte, sparking scenes of utter jubilation both in the stands and on the field from the home favourites.

“It was a really exciting game, I’d describe it as nail-biting”, said India’s Rupinder Pal Singh after the match. “The crowd were amazing today, they were helped us play a really good game.”

Source: FIH

Story first published: Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 22:39 [IST]
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