India kicked off the Hockey World Cup 2023 campaign in style as they defeated Spain 2-0 in a full-house Birsa Munda Stadium, Rourkela.
The game was dominated by the hosts as Spain was clueless about the intensity with which India was playing. Local boy Amit Rohidas and Hardik Singh scored the two goals while Indian skipper Harmanpreet Singh missed a penalty stroke.
Here are the five major talking points from the game:
Harmanpreet misses the Penalty Stroke
As shocking as it sounds, Indian captain Harmanpreet Singh missing the penalty stroke is the major talking point from the game. 5 minutes into the third quarter, Mandeep Singh was tackled from behind and India earned a penalty corner.
With one of the best drag flickers at its disposal, India was expected to increase their lead but Harmanpreet’s stroke was saved by Spanish goalkeeper Adrian Rafi quite exceptionally.
It looked like the ball has crossed the line but Rafi has stopped the ball just on the line. The umpires went for a video check and it confirmed that the ball never crossed the line.
India’s defensive Solidity
India was defensively solid against Spain with the likes of Jarmanpreet and Amit Rohidas stepping at the right time. India only conceded one penalty corner and restricted Spain to 9 circle penetrations till halftime.
Spain made some inroads in the final quarter but Krishan Pathak and his brilliant saves kept them at the bay. Harmanpreet Singh was jittery in the back line but he had a bad game overall.
India’s Penalty Corners Woes
Before the Hockey World Cup started, the talk of the town was India’s over-reliance on Captain Harmanpreet Singh for the conversion of penalty corners. Despite India winning six penalty corners, only one of them was converted by Amit Rohidas.
India tried three different combinations with Jarmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas and Harmanpreet Singh taking the duties.
On Harmanpreet Singh’s performance
Yes was less effective than his usual self but he deserves benefit of doubt just like Argentina does. It’s the first game and he too needs to warm up. I’m sure we’ll see the best of him in upcoming games
— Give Me Hockey (@hockeyind) January 13, 2023
Harmanpreet not only missed the penalty stroke but he was also not his usual self from the top of the corner. India will want their skipper to bounce back for the crucial next game against England on 15th January.
Midfield battle won by India
The Indian duo of Hardik Singh and Manpreet Singh ran the show in midfield and totally outclassed their Spanish counterparts. Hardik’s intensity on the pitch was coupled with his beautiful solo goal.
The midfield maestro of India, Manpreet Singh and his work rate was commendable during the game with him covering spaces pretty effectively. The effective show by the duo meant India was tactically sound today.
The midfield kept the intensity up in the last quarter which was a problem in past some months.
The Atmosphere at Birsa Munda Stadium, Rourkela
The game will be remembered for the thunderous home support India had during the game. Termed the ‘Crown Jewel of Indian Hockey’, the stadium is a magnificent one with a 20,000 seating capacity.
The chants of ‘India, India’ will definitely make it tough for the opponents playing here. Local boy Amit Rohidas scoring the first goal was the perfect icing on the cake as the stadium rose to huge applause.
India will play England on 15th January on the same ground.