India dished out a lackluster performance to go down 0-3 to Argentina in the opening match of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in front of a packed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Raipur on Friday.
Argentina scored from three penalty corner situations with Gonzalo Peillat (3rd, 60th minute) finding the net twice while Joaquin Menini (24th) scored the other in the Pool B encounter.
India recently jumped two rungs to be placed sixth in the world rankings but that didn’t show in their performance at all against the ‘Los Leones’, who are placed just a spot above at fifth.
The Argentines completely dominated the match as the Indians looked disoriented and lacked in co-ordination.
Argentina's dominance could be gauged from the fact that they earned as many as nine penalty corners in the match to India's one.
The host's problems were compounded by the display of their misfiring forward-line, in particular an off-colour Ramandeep Singh.
India looked out of sorts and rusty from the word go and the Argentines were quick to pounce on their opponents’ weakness to earn their first penalty corner as early as in the third minute of the game after Jasjit Singh Kular committed a foul inside the circle.
Argentina’s drag-flick exponent Peillat made no mistake in giving his side the lead with a powerful flick to the right of the Indian custodian PR Sreejesh.
Jasjeet, in particular, was not in his elements in India’s backline as he committed a lot of errors. The Indians were completely outplayed by Argentina for most of the opening half.
Eight minutes into the second quarter, Argentina earned their second penalty corner, courtesy Ignacio Diego Paz’s brilliant stick work in the right flank as he dribbled past four Indian players to earn the set piece.
Even though the Indian defence managed to thwart that chance, they conceded two penalty corners in succession, the last of which was utilised by the Argentines, when Menini found the back of the net in the 24h minute.
Down by two goals, India showed some purpose towards the end of the opening half.
Dharamvir Singh created India’s first real scoring opportunity in the 28th minute with a defence splitting diagonal cross to an unmarked Ramandeep inside the opposition circle but the Indian striker failed to trap the ball.
India created another chance in the last minute of the first half but Akashdeep Singh’s touch from VR Raghunath’s cross from the midfield went wide off the target.
The script was the same after the change of ends as Argentina continued to outplay their opponents in all aspects of the game.
The away team kept up the pressure on the Indian defence and secured two more penalty corners in succession but this time they faltered in execution.
Argentina relentless pressure earned them another penalty corner in the 45th minute which was saved by Sreejesh.
Four minutes later, the Argentines wasted another set piece.
It took India 50 minutes to secure their first penalty corner of the match but Rupinder Pal Singh’s flick was kept away by a diving Juan Vivaldi in front of Argentina goal.
Argentina added salt to India’s wound in the final minute when Peillat scored his second goal of the day from the team’s ninth penalty corner.
India will play Olympic champions Germany on Saturday, while Argentina will be up against defending champions Netherlands.