With a display that was as impressive as it was incisive India overwhelmed Canada by a thumping margin of 5-1 and ensure a place in the quarter final of the hockey World Cup on Saturday.
The outcome confirmed the home team’s top spot in Pool C thanks to a substantial goal difference of +9 pushing the formidable Belgium to the second spot with a goal difference of +5.
Belgium defeated South Africa by an identical 5-1 margin to finish with seven points, the same aggregate as India. This brought in the goal difference to determine the top team in the Pool.
Never in recent memory has India triumphed in a must-win situation with such authority and assertiveness as on Saturday.
The big holiday crowd savoured every minute of the tussle in which India’s dominance, at least in the final quarter that generated four goals.
There were sharp exchanges and fluent probing from both sides, but it was evident that India was having the edge. India did create a few nice openings but the Canadian defence headed by the intrepid goal keeper held on gallantly. But close on the first quarter Harmanpreet Singh pumped in the lead from a penalty corner.
India could not enhance the lead quickly with the second half turning barren. Actually, it was Canada that picked up the equaliser through Floris van Son. India realized that it was time to step up the aggression. There was a relentless spell of attacks by India with all the forwards and midfielder in the rival area. It was midfielder Chingelsana who broke the monotony with a splendid goal to put India ahead again.
Pepped up by the turn of events India wrested the initiative, and Lalith Upadyaya netted the third goal and was followed by Amit Rohitdas for the fourth goal that almost put India streets ahead in the match. India ended the match with a superb effort with Lalitha providing the finishing touches to an astute move by Sumit.
By any yardstick it was a memorable show by the new look Indian team that is in full trim to meet the rigours of the competition at this level. India finished the first phase of the championship in a blaze of glory without a reverse in three matches. The team notched up 12 goals conceding three.
Among the four Asian outfits in the fray only India has recorded the best showing befitting its fifth ranking in the world. China, playing its first championship, has performed exceedingly well holding England to a draw. Neither Pakistan, the former champion, nor Malaysia has done well so far, and they play the Netherlands and Germany respectively today.