At the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 in Delhi, India pleased the crowd with an impressive win over arch-rivals Pakistan (4-1), England surprised Australia (3-2) and Spain struggled to take the best over South Africa (4-2).
The build-up to the FIH flagship event was marred by the security concerns and by controversies surrounding the accreditations and ticketing. Additional police checks and technical problems delayed the delivery of accreditations to Technical Officials and to the throng of journalists eager to cover the event, while the Delhi Police and the Sport Authority of India, owner of the Stadium, abruptly decided that one of the stands would be closed, leaving hundreds of ticket holders stranded...
Although the organizers are still desperately working to try and finalize the venue, the start of competition on the pitch is a welcomed shift of focus and the opening day matches immediately reminded the hockey fans that the players should be the one in the spotlight.
Game 1 – South Africa v. Spain: 4-2 (half-time: 2-2)
The Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 opened with an encounter between two teams with wildly different experiences of this top competition: Spain is one of five teams that have been present at all 11 previous World Cup tournaments, finishing 2nd in 1971 and 1998, while South Africa only had three modest participations with a best performance of 10th in 1994.
The first chance of the game was for Spain, but Erasmus PIETERSE in the South African goal stood tall to thwart the attempt. The Spaniards had a few more dangerous chances; however the first penalty-corner of the game was at the other end for South Africa. It was saved by Francisco CORTES in the Spanish goal and on the counter-attack Roc OLIVA had a golden opportunities to open the scoring in an open net, but the ball was saved on the line by a retreating defender.
The first injury of the competition was for... an umpire, and the match was temporarily stopped to replace Irishman Colin HUTCHINSON by Amarjit SINGH of Malaysia.
A quick South African counter-attack found Julian HYKES alone deep in Spanish territory and he made no mistake to become the first goal scorer of the 2010 World Cup. The Spanish reaction was brutal, Roc OLIVA then Miquel DELAS scoring in quick succession to switch back the lead to Spain. The game was flowing back and forth, keeping the crowd well entertained, and South Africa managed to tie the score before half-time on a broken penalty-corner, Ian HALEY pouncing on a loose ball in a scrum in front of goal to push it over the line.
The video-umpire was kept busy in second period, first to confirm a penalty-corner awarded to South Africa, then to confirm the go-ahead goal scored by Spaniard Rodrigo GARZA. After a long period of uncertain play, Spain finally increased their lead on a penalty-corner by Pau QUEMADA. The two-goal gap was too much for the African Champion and Spain, although not especially impressive, ended with the three points of the win, remaining unbeaten in their last nine World Cup games.
Game 2 – Australia v. England: 2-3 (half-time: 1-2)
The second game of opening day was a classic hockey opposition between Australia and England. The two countries have already met 8 times in previous World Cup, with Australia winning 7 of the 8 encounters, most famously in 1986 when Australia won the World Cup title by beating England 2-1 in the final. Having won 51 of 72 World Cup matches, Australia boast a winning percentage of 71%, higher than any other team. They finished runner-up in the last two editions (2002 and 2006) and have the strong desire to go one step higher this time around.
The two teams unsuccessfully exchanged penalty-corners in the opening minutes and the game flowed end-to-end for a while, under the loud encouragements of the crowd slowly filling in the stadium for the marquis event later in the evening. After wasting a few opportunities with shots high in the stands, Australia were awarded a penalty-corner and Jamie DWYER made no mistake from the spot to open the scoring.
England did not waste time to tie the game, Ashley JACKSON roofing a penalty-corner in spectacular fashion over George BAZELEY in the Australian goal, scoring in the process the first English World Cup goal against Australia since 1986. Neither team could take full control of the game in this first period and the score remained tied until the last minute of the half, when England converted another penalty-corner, this time by James TINDALL with a low shot.
The same player increased the gap early in second half, collecting a rebound, after a shot by Iain MACKAY hit the post, to slot it in goal and give his team a small cushion. England were playing well, putting all the pressure on Australia and preventing them from developing their game. The Kookaburras wasted a large number of penalty corners, kept at bay by a phenomenal James FAIR in the English goal. They finally scored on their twelfth attempt to close the gap with less than 5 minutes to go.
This set the stage for an intense end of game, with more intervention of the video-umpire. The English team maintained their pressure very high, managing to keep the Australians at bay for a well deserved win.
Match Facts (Australia v. England):
> England collected their first World Cup win over Australia in 35 years by beating them 3-2.
> This ended their 7-match losing streak against Australia in World Cup competition.
> England's only previous WC victory over the Kookaburras came in 1975 (3-1).
> Australia have now lost their last four World Cup matches against European opposition, losing to ENG (2010), GER and ESP (2006) and GER (2002).
> England are now on a 4-match winning streak in World Cup competition. They also won their last three WC matches in 2006 against Pakistan (1-0), New Zealand (4-3) and South Africa (3-1).
> James Tindall (ENG) scored twice to lift his World Cup total to 7 goals in 8 matches.
Game 3 – Pakistan v. India: 1-4 (half-time: 0-2)
The first day of the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 ended with the much anticipated match between Pakistan and host India, always a treat for hockey lovers. This match was the fifth World Cup encounter between the two countries, the most famous being the 1975 Final when India beat Pakistan (2-1). Ironically for these two hockey giants, the last time they met in a World Cup was 24 years ago for the 11th-12th classification match in 1986 (Pakistan won 3-2).
The opening day clash had the two countries buzzing for days, and legendary Indian player Dhanraj Pillai summed up the mood in his daily column in the Hindustan Times: “Good luck to Team India from one billion Indians”!
The game started after a thundering rendition of the Indian National Anthem by the crowd. The two teams immediately proceeded to offer a superb display of “Asian hockey” with swift attacks and immediate counter-attacks. The players were nevertheless obviously nervous, committing some unforced errors and losing balls in unnecessary dribbles. The first real chance was for Tushar KHANDKER, inheriting the ball at the tail end of a fast Indian movement that swept the whole field, but his instant shot was well paraded by Salman AKBAR in the Pakistani goal.
India had most of the possession, led by a very active Prabhjot SINGH, but the Green Shirts were absorbing well the pressure, successfully defending the first penalty-corner of the match after twenty minutes of play. They were not as successful on the second penalty-corner, forced in the 27th minute after yet another run by Prabhjot SINGH; Shivendra SINGH was on hand to collect the rebound and slot it in goal, sending the crowd in wild ecstatic chants.
Pakistan used the video-umpiring referral successfully to be awarded a penalty-corner, but Sohail ABBAS crashed his powerful drag-flick on the cross-bar. India missed a golden opportunity at the other end, the ball rolling in front of the empty net without anybody managing to put a stick on it, but they earned another penalty-corner with no time on the clock, and Sandeep SINGH confirmed his good form to increase the lead at halftime to 2-0.
The match resumed on the same high tempo after the break, and Prabhjot SINGH was immediately rewarded of his efforts with the third goal, poaching from close range a ball that had eluded the Pakistani defenders. Chance was definitely not on Pakistan’s side, Sohail ABBAS driving another missile on the crossbar before failing in his third attempt, and they could not control the forth one. Sandeep SINGH increased India’s lead to 4 goals before Sohail ABBAS finally opened up his tally.
It was nevertheless too little too late, and, with the crowd dancing happily in the stands, India ran away with the win over their arch-rivals, starting their World Cup campaign on a high note and giving hope to a whole country.
Match Facts (Pakistan vs. India):
> India won 4-1 to record their biggest win over Pakistan in World Cup competition.
> This marked India’s first World Cup win over Pakistan in 35 year, since beating them 2-1 in the 1975 final.
> The last time India scored 4 goals in a World Cup match was in 2002, when they beat Cuba 4-0 and Poland 4-1.
> Sohail Abbas (PAK) scored once to equal Floris Jan Bovelander (NED) on 17 World Cup goals. Only three players have scored more World Cup goals: Paul Litjens (NED, 26), Ties Kruize (NED, 21) and Wolfgang Strödter (GER, 18).
> Sandeep Singh scored twice on his World Cup debut for India. He joins James Tindall (ENG) and Jamie Dwyer (AUS) at the top of the goal scorer table after matchday 1.
> India lead Pool B after matchday 1 at the 2010 World Cup, leading ESP on goal difference.
The Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 continues on Monday in Delhi when New Zealand play Canada, Germany meet Korea and The Netherlands conclude the day against Argentina.
For additional information, pictures, video clips, official game sheets, and more, please check the special FIH event site @ http://www.worldhockey.org/worldcup/.
Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 (men) – Delhi, India
Results Day 1 - Sunday 28 February 2010
South Africa v. Spain 4:2 (2:2)
RSA 16mn Julian HYKES (FG) 1:0
ESP 19mn Roc OLIVA (FG) 1:1
ESP 20mn Miquel DELAS (FG) 1:2
RSA 30mn Ian HALEY (PC) 2:2
ESP 45mn Rodrigo GARZA (FG) 2:3
ESP 61mn Pau QUEMADA (PC) 2:4
Australia v. England 2:3 (1:2)
AUS 23mn Jamie DWYER (PS) 1:0
ENG 24mn Ashley JACKSON (PC) 1:1
ENG 33mn James TINDALL (PC) 1:2
ENG 45mn James TINDALL (FG) 1:3
AUS 64mn Jamie DWYER (PC) 2:3
Pakistan v. India 1:4 (0:2)
IND 27mn Shivendra SINGH (PC) 0:1
IND 35+mn Sandeep SINGH (PC) 0:2
IND 37mn Prabhjot SINGH (FG) 0:3
IND 56mn Sandeep SINGH (PC) 0:4
PAK 59mn Sohail ABBAS (PC) 1:4
Pool A: not started yet
Pool B: 1) India 3 pts (+3) 2) Spain 3 pts (+2) 3) England 3 pts (+1) 4) Australia 0 pt (-1) 5) South Africa 0 pt (-2) 6) Pakistan 0 pt (-3)
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