Hockey World Cup 2023: Heartbreak for India!

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World No. 5 India have only themselves to blame after suffering a shock 4-5 defeat to No. 12 New Zealand via shootout in their World Cup Crossover clash at the Kalinga Stadium, leading to a pre-mature exit from the quadrennial event. The Harmanpreet Singh-led side got as many as 11 penalty corners, but could only convert two. Comparatively, the Kiwis made it count with a 100 per cent conversion rate, converting both the penalty corners they received. 

Before this match, Team India had converted just three of their 16 penalty corners earned in the tournament. Chief coach Graham Reid had said on the eve of the tournament that the plan was to take the pressure off chief drag flicker Harmanpreet by employing variations, but they did none of that in the league phase. They did try a couple of variations in this match though—Lalit Upadhyay and Jarmanpreet Singh being the executors—but failed to convert those too.

India’s Harmanpreet Singh scores during a penalty shootout during a Crossover game against New Zealand in Bhubaneswar yesterday. Pic/AFP

Tennis-style overhead smash

India went ahead through an Upadhyay (17th minute) field goal before doubling the lead when Sukhjit Singh (24th) hammered in a penalty corner rebound with a tennis-style overhead smash for 2-0. The double delight however seemed to have brought with it some unwanted complacency as the Indians let Sam Lane (28th) tap in a field goal to reduce the margin. A Varun Kumar (40th) drag flick made it 3-1 for the hosts but once again they seemed to have dozed off through the cool evening breeze here. Russell Kane (43rd) first beat veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh off NZ’s first penalty corner after which Sean Findlay made it 3-3 once again off the dreaded penalty corner. 

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Worse still, the Indians would have lost the match in the last two minutes had it not been for some daring point-blank saves by young custodian Krishan Pathak. 

See-saw battle in the end

The consequential shootout was no less dramatic. It saw players from both camps missing and scoring in equal measure as a see-saw battle ensued. 

Sreejesh even suffered an injury midway through the tense shootout and had to be replaced by Pathak, but this time, the youngster could not bail out the Indians, who continue to miss a World Cup medal 48 years since that solitary high in Malaysia.

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