Hockey World Cup: India beat South Africa, finish joint 9th, lowest ever by a host nation

BHUBANESWAR: India’s campaign in the Men’s Hockey World Cup ended with a second consecutive win in the placement playoffs at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela on Saturday. Fans in Odisha once again took every available seat in the 20,000-capacity stadium to stand with the home team in what has been an otherwise sorry campaign for India, who beat South Africa 5-2 to end in joint-9th position along with Argentina.

It’s the worst ever finish by a host nation in a men’s World Cup. India broke its own record of an 8th-place finish in Delhi 2010, which it held jointly with Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur 2002) and Argentina (Buenos Aires 1978).

As it happened: India vs South Africa
Like against Japan, India dominated the South Africans as well. But while Japan’s open play allowed the Indians more turnovers and chances to score, the Africans looked focused on their defensive structure, until Samkelo Mvimbi scored the first of SA’s two consolation goals in the 49th minute, followed by Mustaphaa Cassiem converting a penalty stroke in the 60th.

India’s opening goal came off the stick of last-match hero Abhishek. After his two goals against Japan, Abhishek put the hosts ahead as early as the fifth minute.

Skipper Harmanpreet Singh’s return to form on drag-flicks saw him providing India a cushion in the 12th minute.  The scoreline remained 2-0 for the next 33 minutes, which painted a story of hits and misses, with the number of India’s circle entries increasing but not the number of goals.  It was in the 45th minute that Shamsher Singh made it 3-0.

The last 15 minutes were the most entertaining of the four quarters. It saw four goals, starting with two in the 49th minute, when Akashdeep Singh made it 4-0 and Samkelo then cut that down to 4-1 for South Africa.

Sukhjeet Singh restored the four-goal lead with India’s fifth strike in the 59th minute, but a strong challenge by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh in the circle saw the visitors being awarded a penalty stroke in the last minute, which Cassiem converted to end the game at 5-2.

Source: TIMESOFINDIA.COM | January 28, 2023