India make FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup quarter-finals after win over Poland

The Indian hockey team beat Poland 8-2. Defending champions India will now face last edition’s runners-up Belgium in the quarters after finishing second in Pool B.

By Utathya Nag
Picture by Hockey India

The Indian hockey team sealed their spot in the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup 2021 quarter-finals with an 8-2 victory over Poland in their final Pool B match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha on Saturday.

With France drubbing Canada 11-1 earlier in the day to confirm the top spot in Pool B, India, the defending champions, needed at least a draw against Poland to finish second and make the cut for the quarters.

Sanjay, Sudeep Chirmako and Araijeet Singh Hundal scored a brace each for India while Uttam Singh and Sharda Nand Tiwari netted one each.

After a shock defeat to France in their opening match, India bounced back in style with a brilliant 13-1 win over Canada and ensured their title defence stayed alive with Saturday’s result against Poland. They finished with six points from their three group matches.

India started the game with positive intent and kept on threatening the Polish circle consistently. Polish goalkeeper Maciej Wieczorek made a good save to keep the reigning champions at bay but the resistance was breached in the fourth minute.

Drag flicker Sanjay, India’s vice captain, converted a penalty corner to open the scoring. The goal was Sanjay’s seventh of the tournament, after back-to-back hat-tricks in the first two matches.

Araijeet Singh Hundal got into the act four minutes later, converting another penalty corner to make the score 2-0. Jolted by the two early strikes, Poland tried to regroup and even tested India custodian Prashant Chauhan with a set piece towards the end of the first quarter but the Indian was up to the task.

In the second quarter, Sudeep Chirmako made it 3-0 for India after some nifty stickwork to elude Polish defenders before finding the net.

The gap could have widened even further heading into the half-time whistle if not for a heroic performance by Wieczorek.

In the second half, the Vivek Sagar Prasad-led India team piled on even more misery on the Polish side, with Uttam Singh (35’), Sharda Nand Tiwari (38’), Sudeep Chirmako (40’), Sanjay (57’) and Araijeet Singh Hundal (60’) adding five more to India’s tally.

Wojciech Rutkowski (50’) and Robert Pawlak (54’) pulled a couple of goals back for Poland in the 50th minute but the score ended 8-2 in India’s favour.

India will face Belgium, the Pool A toppers, in the quarter-finals on December 1. Incidentally, India beat the Belgian team to win the title in the last edition in 2016 held in Lucknow.

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