India roar into Junior World Cup semis

India come back to beat Netherlands 4-3 and clinch a semi-final slot in the 7th Junior World Cup Hockey Championships at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre.

updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Hobart, Australia:

Tottering on the brink of disaster, India came roaring back to beat a fighting Netherlands 4-3 and clinch a semi-final slot in the 7th Junior World Cup Hockey Championships at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre here today. Fortune favours the brave, it is truly said. And the courageous Indians had dame luck smiling on them as earlier in the morning, Argentina shocked hosts Australia with a 2-1 win, the match-winner coming in the last 18 seconds of the match thus making it clear for India that they had to win against Netherlands to go through to the semifinals. The two semi-finalists from Pool F are Argentina who topped and India who finished second. In Pool E, Germany has already qualified for the semi-final and the second team would be decided after the match between Spain and England. India threw everything they had into attack right from the word go. And that paid off as the midfield looked stronger and very alert releasing the ball on the first shot. Within ten minutes, India were solidly ahead. In the seventh minute, skipper Gagan Ajit Singh was perfectly positioned to pick up a cross from the left and he flicked it in for India to take the lead. Three minutes later, India earned their first penalty corner and Jugraj Singh flicked powerfully high into the net for the second goal and India appeared to be steam-rolling past the Dutch. But the Dutch knew they too had to win to have any chance of qualifying. Netherlands put an extra man in the midfield and suddenly there were crosses that were cutting through to the Indian circle. One of them found Kanwalpreet Singh rushing into an infringement and the umpire awarded the Dutch a penalty corner and Roderick Weusthop smashed it in. The Dutch were boosted by their first goal. Ignace Tirkey was given a yellow card as he banged straight into a Dutch forward. With ten Indians on the field, the Dutch had found the best opportunity to launch counter-attacks and hope for the equaliser. It came in the 22nd minute when Mathijs van Weerd trapped a cross and went past Jugraj Singh to cleanly flick in past diving Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan. With scores tied, India were a little slow in recovering as the midfield desperately tried to take the upperhand. At the break, India-Netherlands were tied 2-2. In the second half, India were powering through into the Dutch circle but were not getting the goals. But 13 minutes into the half, Prabhjot Singh had the ball on the left and, keeping it close to the touchline, dribbled in and then smartly drew the 'keeper out to flick in for India to take the lead once again. The Dutch were just not willing to give up. A minute later, off a counter, they earned a penalty corner and Rob Reckers picked up the rebound off Chauhan's pads and slammed it in for the equaliser. Knowing that a draw would eliminate them from the race for the semi-finals, India with nothing to lose threw everything in and started to doiminate the midfield and cut crosses into the Dutch circle. With 13 minutes left, India earned it's fourth penalty corner and instead of Jugraj Singh, Kanwalpreet Singh stepped up to take it. He converted with a straight strike to the unbounded joy of the Indians. The Dutch still opened up the game, throwing forwards upfront in search of an equaliser. They had one opportunity in the last 20 seconds when they earned a penalty corner but the Indian defence, not to be denied a place in the top four, took the drag flick onto a stick and cleared it. As the Indians piled on each other in relief and joy, the hooter went. Coach Rajinder Singh was smiling for the first time in the tournament. "It's a huge relief. After the scores were tied 3-3, I knew it was anybody's game. One mistake from either side would have resulted in a goal." But he was all praise for the boys as he felt they had put in their best. "I think the first two goals in 10 minutes gave us the dominance. They equalised later but they knew we could take the match away from them." (PTI)