Bhubaneswar, 11 December 2014: Host nation India marched into the semi-finals of the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy on home soil in Bhubaneswar thanks to a stunning 4-2 victory over Belgium. This quarter-final result gives India a semi-final against Pakistan who knocked out the Dutch earlier in the day.
The last quarter-final of the day kicked off with high intensity in the sold-out Kalinga Stadium of Bhubaneswar. The Red Lions had the better start in this encounter winning two early penalty corners. However, star flicker Tom Boon was denied on both occasions.
Soon after, Belgian keeper Vincent Vanasch got called into action when he parried the counter-attack of Dharamvir Singh. Felix Denayer eventually opened the scoring in the 12th minute through a penalty corner goal flicking the third attempt low into the bottom of the goal.
Sebastien Dockier doubled the lead in the second quarter when he finished off from Tanguy Cosyns’ pre-work in the 18th minute. However, the Indian boys struck back in the same minute with Rupinder Singh firing home India’s first penalty corner.
The equaliser arrived three minutes before halftime at the 27th minute, thanks to SK Uthappa scoring from open play. From here on it was India’s game as they took over completely in the second and last quarter. The crowd in the Kalinga Stadium freaked out completely when Akashdeep Singh put India ahead 3-2 in the 41st minute leaving the Belgium team stunned. The hosts did not stop the rampage here. In the 49th minute it was Dharamvir Singh who extended India’s lead further taking the score to 4-2. After a Belgian penalty corner shot was blocked, India was on the break and finished successfully to make it 4-2.
Speaking on the spectacular win, Captain Sardar Singh said “It is just the start of the tournament and we still have areas to work and improve on. With the world’s top eight teams being a part of this championship, we have to play our best to give them a tough fight and generate positive results. Ups and downs are a part of the game and I am delighted with the way the team came back and took the lead in the game. Belgium is one of the toughest teams to beat and sticking to our plan and the guidance from Roelant Oltmans really helped in this game today. It is a good morale boost for the whole team as we enter the semifinals but we will not be taking things lightly.”
Speaking post the match, Belgium Captain John-John Dohmen said “We started off very good but I think we got over confident and ended up with this loss. India fought back energetically; they didn’t lose any chance to capitalize. It was surprising for us the way they came back into the match. The crowd was passionate and India got the advantage of the home ground. Today it was their day and our bad luck. If they continue in the same style they can win the tournament”.
Commenting on the team’s performance, Roelant Oltmans, High Performance Director said “It was a fantastic game, although we didn’t start well but I am happy that we ended well. I am proud of this team today. The way they fought back was exceptional. They played an organised game and didn’t miss any opportunity. We will be clashing against Pakistan day after tomorrow and we are aware that they are a tough team and we have to be very strong against them. They are good in attacking as well as in their defence. The aim is to win the tournament from here and it is possible if we maintain the same pace”.
The semi-final day will commence with play offs for the 5-8 placement matches, with the first semi-final getting underway at 17:15hrs local time at Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium.
The semi-finals will take place on Saturday 13th December with the running order as follows (local time – UTC/GMT +5.30):
5th – 8th 11:30 Belgium v Netherlands
5th – 8th 13:45 England v Argentina
SF 1 17:15 Germany v Australia
SF 2 19:30 India v Pakistan