India achieve primary objective
Hosts sizzle in final quarter to brush aside Canada and earn direct quarterfinals ticket, coach Harendra says World Cup starts now
Mumbai: One of the primary objectives of India head coach Harendra Singh going into the Hockey Men’s World Cup campaign was topping the pool stage and thereby securing a direct quarterfinals ticket. Objective one: check.
India beat Canada 5-1 in Bhubaneswar on Saturday to top Pool C and seal in their place in the last eight stage without having to go through the tricky cross-over stage, which teams placed second and third in each pool will have to deal with.
India will now have the luxury of a four-day rest period, for their quarterfinals is scheduled on Thursday. And, barring a major upset, the hosts are all likely to face Netherlands in order to qualify for the semifinals.
“Those who have visited my room know I have already written who we will play in the quarterfinals and who in the semifinals. For me a fournation tournament has finished and the World Cup starts now,” Harendra said after the victory.
“From quarterfinals you can smell a medal. The actual tournament starts with the next game,” he added.
After Belgium thrashed South Africa 5-1 in the first match of the day, the scenario for India was simple: a win would take them straight to the quarterfinals, while any other result would give that position to the Belgians.
At the end of the third quarter, India would’ve felt the jitters, with Canada giving them a mighty fight to hold them to 1-1.
However, the hosts came out flying in the final quarter, pumping in four goals to throw those nerves out of the vociferous Kalinga Stadium and ensure that Belgium — who have the same number of points as India but have an inferior goal difference — will have to enter the cross-over stage.
Chinglensana Singh (46th minute), Lalit Upadhyay (47th, 57th) and Amit Rohidas (51st) turned the heat on in the final 15 minutes after Harmanpreet Singh gave India the lead in the 12th minute.
Canada’s lone goal came from the stick of Floris van Son in the 39th minute.
India’s Lalit Upadhyay celebrates after scoring a goal against Canada during their World Cup encounter in Bhubaneswar on Saturday