Bhubaneswar, December 2: A spirited Team India came close to defeating higher-ranked Belgium but eventually ended up playing a 2-2 draw against the Red Lions in their Pool C encounter in FIH Men's Hockey World Cup here on Sunday (December 2).
After showing early nervousness in the first half and trailing 1-0, the Indians came back strongly in the third quarter to hit the equaliser and later took an early lead in the fourth quarter.
But an error in the defence in the 56th minute gave Belgium an opportunity to make a comeback and the scoreline remained 2-2 when the final whistle was blown. That error once again highlighted India's defensive woes in the dying moments of the game, a department they must look to improve if they want to see themselves making the podium finish.
With a big win against South Africa and a playing thrilling draw against mighty Belgian Red Lions, Team India continue to top their Pool with 4 points and a goal difference of 5. The two teams would now hope for a win in their final league game to advance to the quarterfinals.
3 penalty corners for Belgium in the first quarter and the Red Lions managed to convert one successfully. Alexander Hendrickx scored the first goal for his team with a superb drag flick in the 8th minute to which Sreejesh had no answer to.
It was the third PC for the Belgians in the first 10 minutes and they just managed to breach India's defence. At the end of the 1st quarter and Belgium lead 1-0 against India. Indians made some counter attacks but the Belgian defenders were very alert in their circle.
FT. India tide over a challenging match against @BELRedLions at the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 as an action-packed final quarter kept spectators on the edge of their seats on 2nd December 2018.#INDvBEL #IndiaKaGame #HWC2018 #DilHockey pic.twitter.com/S9nsA7Kpnq— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) December 2, 2018
The second quarter remained goalless as no team managed to score a goal as Belgium went 1-0 up at half-time. The tempo was unpredictable on the turf as India created some opportunities on the turf to hit the equaliser but they failed to succeed despite penetrating in the second half quite a few times.
In the first half Indians had just 39% of possession while the Belgians had 61% of possession which cleared the picture about the goal difference.
India maintain their spot on top of Pool C while South Africa and Canada earn their first points of the OHMWC Bhubaneswar 2018 on 2nd December. Here's how the teams stand after an eventful day in the competition.#CANvRSA #INDvBEL #IndiaKaGame #HWC2018 #DilHockey pic.twitter.com/UQmmIASIKJ— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) December 2, 2018
Belgians defended their lead while India had some opportunities at hand as they failed to convert it. In the 19th minute, India missed an opportunity to score when a little bit of selfish game from Dilpreet cost the home side. Dilpreet didn't pass to Lalit who was standing unmarked in the scoring position. Coach Harendra isn't happy with Dilpreet's effort.
India looked a better side after an anxious first half and played brilliantly in the third quarter. Harmanpreet Singh hit the first goal for India in the 39th minute by successfully converting a Penalty Stroke against which goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch had no response.
.@ArthurVDoren, feels there are lot of positives which @BelRedLions can extract from this match.— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) December 2, 2018
"Belgium needs to thoroughly analyze this game and prepare themselves better for the upcoming matches." 🎤#INDvBEL #IndiaKaGame #HWC2018 #DilHockey pic.twitter.com/ugMwoCMDRt
World No. 5, India's pass accuracy improved after that 10-minute as they ended up having more possession than their Belgian counterparts. India had 61.53% pass accuracy and made 10 circle entries in comparison to Belgium's 57.14% accuracy and only 4 circle penetrations. India got 3 penalty corners as well in the third quarter while conceded none.
Simranjeet Singh gave India a lead for the first time in the game in the 47th minute as the crowd at Kalinga International Stadium erupted into joy. But 9 minutes later Simon Gougnard hit a field goal for the Red Lions to equalise for them and ensure India do not take all three points from the game. However, India were still a dominant side in the final quarter and deserved to win the game but the experienced Belgium team kept things tight in the last 4 minutes, despite playing without their goalkeeper.
Nevertheless, India would be still impressed with their game as they came from behind and almost stunned the Rio-Olympic Silver-medallist and World No. 3 side with their spirited show.