The two highest-ranked teams in this tournament clinched the two top spots. India scored no less than 35 goals, much to the delight of their great fans. The home team and South Africa have earned a berth in the FIH Olympic qualifiers. Defeating the USA, Japan took third place.
Japan – USA
True to the tactical principles they had showcased since the beginning of the tournament, Japan immediately started to put pressure on the USA while the North Americans were defensively well organised and ready to seize every opportunity to move quickly upfront.
On one of their first counter-attacks, the USA won a penalty corner which Aki Kaeppeler converted into the first goal of this match for third place. However, Japan reacted quickly and following a drag-flick from a penalty corner by Yoshiki Kirishita, Kazuma Murata found the target one minute later.
Japan continued to attack and were close to take the lead after a nice combination inside the circle but the US defence intervened. Halfway through the second quarter, the Asian champions were awarded a penalty stroke. However, Hirotaka Zendana missed the target.
The Asian champions did not give up and in the same quarter they got another penalty stroke which, this time, Yoshiki Kirishita converted, therefore giving his side a 2-1 lead. In the meantime, Japan’s goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa had denied a further scoring opportunity for the USA with a brilliant save.
The second half started with repeated attacks from Japan on USA’s goal. But, despite a plethora of great chances, they were either unable to find the target or were thwarted by US goalkeeper Daniel Wisselink – later elected Man of the Match – who was having an outstanding day. Meanwhile, Rutger Wiese’s team always looked dangerous on the break.
The dying moments of the game were just thrilling. With one minute to go, the USA managed to get back into the match with a second goal from Aki Kaeppeler from a penalty corner. A shootout competition was looming … but the team of Captain Mohan Gandhi had hardly celebrated their equaliser when they conceded two goals from Kenta Tanaka before the final whistle!
Japan’s Head Coach Siegfried Aikman: “Our team has made big steps in this tournament. In all our matches, we did our passing and our receiving play very well. Against India, we lost our control. But even then, it was a good match. In our finishing, we are poor. In our penalty corners, we are a disaster. Until the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, we will focus on physical strength, finishing and of course penalty corners. But we have time and those are things which you can practice very well.”
USA’s captain Mohan Gandhi: “Our performance throughout the tournament has been fantastic. We’re a tough team to beat. Nobody likes playing against us. Slightly disappointed as in the last two minutes of each game we just couldn’t close it out. We showed our inexperience and lack of confidence, I think. But the whole tournament, the whole time we’ve been here, we’ve grown and we’re going to take that into the next tournament.”
FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019
Result: Japan 4, USA 2 (match for 3rd place)
Man of the Match: Daniel Wisselink (USA)
Umpires: Dekang Chen (CHN), Ahmed Elsayed (EGY)
India – South Africa
In front of their home fans, India wanted to live up to their supremacy in the FIH World Rankings. It did not take them very long to take the lead with a goal from Varun Kumar from a penalty corner. The Asian team was playing mostly in South Africa’s half during the first quarter and doubled their lead, with another penalty corner; this time from Harmanpreet Singh.
South Africa spared no effort to come back into the match but they struggled to create good chances. And it was India who added another goal to their tally with a penalty stroke from Harmanpreet Singh, therefore becoming the joint top goalscorer of the tournament with Russia’s Semen Matkovskiy (6 goals each) at that moment.
Half-time came with a solid 3-0 lead for Graham Reid’s side.
At the start of the second half, South Africa missed a good opportunity which, if converted, would have given hope and confidence to the African champions. Instead of that, India took a 4 goals advantage through Vivek Prasad who converted from short distance as a result of an offering from Simranjeet Singh after brilliant dribbling in the circle.
South Africa were determined to find the target and they were a step away from doing so on two consecutive attempts from Keenan Horne and Richard Pautz towards the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter of this tournament saw the home team continue attacking and Varun Kumar scored his second penalty corner. He too was taking his goal tally in this event to six, therefore joining Harmanpreet Singh – later chosen Man of the Match – and Semen Matkovskiy at the top of the goalscorer standings. Meanwhile, the African champions also found the target as Richard Pautz was in the right place to hit the ball over the goal-line from a penalty corner.
India’s Head Coach Graham Reid: “It was a really interesting tournament. There are always things which we can improve. I think that the areas that we worked on in the last 2-3 months, we’ll be continuing. The boys will now have a couple of weeks off, spend time with their families and recharge their batteries. Then we have a really hard month in July and we go to the Olympic Games’ test event in Tokyo in August. It will be a busy period.”
South Africa’s Head Coach Garreth Ewing: “First, we’ll take from this tournament a step to the next round. It was really good for us to spend some time together as a team. The first couple of games were tough but we progressed nicely, then we found our rhythm and we were very competitive and really happy to play against India in the final. We lost to a very good team tonight.”
FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019
Result: India 5, South Africa 1 (Final)
Man of the Match: Harmanpreet Singh (IND)
Umpires: David Sweetman (SCO), Xavier Fenaert (FRA)
Odisha Best Junior Player: Vivek Prasad (IND)
Odisha Mining Corporation Best Goalkeeper: Jonathan Klages (USA)
Hero Top Scorer(s): Varun Kumar (IND), Semen Matkovskiy (RUS), Harmanpreet Singh (IND)
Odisha Best Player: Manpreet Singh (IND)
Hockey India Best Team Goal Celebration: Mexico
Hockey India Fan Choice: Akashdeep Singh (IND)
Hockey India Fair Play: India
Hockey India Maximum Team Goals: India