What a nail-biting finish to that game! India beat Belgium in penalty shootout, where people were writing off the Indian squad, the hosts put forth a stupendous display with the sticks against Rio silver-medallist Belgium.
The game ended 3-3 to take it to the penalty shoot-out. But that wasn’t enugh as five-a-side chances ended in a score of 2-2. Finally it was Harmanpreet who sealed it in the sudden death. India are through to the semi-final now and will join Australia.
Belgium have been the team to beat this tournament. The hosts needed to lift their game and commitment by several notches. They did just that.
Belgium were almost made to look ordinary in the first half as the Indian crowded them out with sustained pressure, continuously winning the ball. The defenders dived, put their body on the lines to put up a resolute resistance. From the midfield, captain Manpreet Singh was engineering the moves. And the forwards hared across as did SV Sunil in two occasions when Gurjant Singh raced ahead with the ball and unleashed two powerful crosses from either flank. On both the occasions, the final effort was wide.
During regulation time, India scored the first goal of the match right after half time. The ball connected with the sticks of a few players near the goal before the Belgian defender tried to clear it, but instead delivered it right to Gurjant Singh. An easy tap in and India were on the board in the 33rd minute.
The 35th minute saw India double their lead with Harmanpreet Singh scoring off a penalty corner.
The Olympic silver-medallists though finally managed to score in the 39th minute. Their first penalty corner of the match and Loick Luypaert converted to get Belgium on the board.
The start of the fourth quarter though saw India lose their lead just minutes after they stepped on the field. Loick Luypaert with the goal once again. But Rupinder Pal Singh, just one minute later, converted with a clear shot after a penalty corner and snatched back the lead.
Seven minutes before full time and Belgium managed to once again equalise. This time though it was an error on the Indian team’s part with Harmanpreet Singh’s stick deflecting the ball into his own net.
The scoreline remained 3-3 with Belgium winning two more penalty corners but failing to score the winner with the contest moving into shootout.
Goalkeeper Akash Chikte put up a superlative show as India edged past Belgium 3-2 via penalty shootout to enter the semi-finals of the FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Final in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.
Chikte blocked four Belgian attackers during the shootout, while Lalit Upadhyay, Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh were on the mark for India.
India opened the tournament with a solid 1-1 draw with current world champions Australia but were shocked 2-3 by England in their second pool game.
India were expected to put up a fight against Germany but they lost 0-2 to them.
Since the HWL is eight-nation tournament, India qualified for the quarter-finals despite poor results.