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India, Spain squeeze into semis
July 07, 2005 17:04 IST
India escaped to victory and entered the semi-finals of the men's Junior World Cup hockey tournament after a slender 1-0 victory over England in Rotterdam on Wednesday.
The match-winner came in the 27th minute when Sandeep Singh converted a penalty corner, his eighth of the championship.
The success took India's tally to 12, the same as Spain, who had earlier beaten Egypt 2-1.
Argentina - Spain
India - Australia
However, India were ranked higher on the basis of the number of goals scored, 12, to Spain's 10 after the teams tied on matches won (4) and goal-difference (plus-5).
Spain also qualified for the semi-finals as the second team from Pool E after the Netherlands-beat Korea 4-1 in a later match.
From Pool F, Argentina advanced to the semi-finals after surprising Australia 3-1. The Aussies had already booked their semi-final slot and the defeat only pushed them to second spot behind Argentina in overall final group standings.
Ironically, England had the better scoring opportunities and should have been up by three goals but for three crucial saves by Senthil Kumar on the goalline, goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza and centre-half Vivek Gupta, who deflected a goal-bound penalty-corner hit in the nick of time.
Also, to India's good fortune, England failed to convert any of the four penalty-corners they received.
At the other end, the Indians weaved pretty patterns till the striking circle, but once in, they fumbled repeatedly.
Quite a few centres were wasted as the forwards just could not get the deflection. In the midfield too, there were far too many passes that allowed England to launch dangerous counter-attacks.
Coach Harendra Singh admitted that the Indians did not play well.
"I think, we were lucky today and, certainly, it was a poor performance overall. There was no co-ordination among the players, the forwards did not create space by off-the-ball running and so, we just could not make any impression to day," he said.
The Indians did not get even a single clear look at the English goal despite the territorial supremacy they enjoyed.
As in the previous encounter against Korea, the Indians tended to hang on the ball for far too long and it allowed the English defenders to regroup and repel attacks.
"It was not the way I wanted our team to enter the semi-finals. We have the potential to play far better, like we did against the Dutch on Sunday (India won 4-1).
"Barring half-backs Nithin Kumar and Vinaya, I was not happy with the rest of the team today," the coach said.
Earlier, Spain managed to pull through on a late goal after Egypt held them 1-1 until the 67th minute when Jorge Rodriguez put home a penalty corner for the match-winner.
After a blank first-half, Spain took the lead when Miguel Delas converted a penalty corner. Egypt, however, neutralized the advantage within two minutes as Mahmoud Elbadry converted a penalty corner.
Thereafter, Egypt hung on gamely only to concede a penalty corner three minutes from close that Rodriguez converted for the winner.
Thursday is a rest day before the semi-finals and classification matches on Friday.