As the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 marches on, day 4 was a fantastic day for the powerhouses of European hockey as title contenders The Netherlands and Germany took to the stage v Malaysia and Pakistan respectively. Day 5 saw Belgium take on hosts India in a full house!

Round-up Day 4:

The Netherlands (FIH Hero World Ranking: 4) were a cut above Malaysia (WR:12) in the first two periods of the day’s opening match, showing brilliant movement to cause the team from Asia no end of problems. Jeroen Hertzberger’s remarkable return from the international wilderness continued, with the 32-year-old forward scoring two wonderful backhand finishes either side of supplying a perfect pass for Mirco Pruijser to score as the Dutch raced into a 3-0 halftime lead. It was an advantage that would certainly have been bigger were it not for veteran Malaysia goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam, who made numerous crucial saves to stop the Netherlands from running riot.

The Dutch continued their dominance after halftime, with Mirco Pruijser and Billy Bakker both hitting the frame of the goal before Mink van der Weerden scored a penalty corner drag-flick to make it 4-0. The score was moved to 5-0 before the end of the third quarter when Robbert Kemperman volleyed home from close range, making the occasion of his 200thsenior international appearance even more memorable. A further two goals were scored by the rampant Dutch side in the final quarter, with Thierry Brinkman firing home a glorious backhand effort before Odisha Player of the Match Jeroen Hertzberger completed his hat-trick in the final minute of the game. It was a terrific performance from the European champions, who have given an early indication that they very much mean business here in Bhubaneswar.

Speaking after the match, Netherlands Head Coach Max Caldas was satisfied by his team’s performance against a side that he said he respected greatly. “Malaysia in the past few years have got good results. We took them very seriously. Things developed our way today, and I’m happy about that.”

If the first match was one-sided, the day’s second contest was anything but. Germany (WR:6) and Pakistan (WR:13) could not be separated in the first two-quarters of the game in which the defences of both teams excelled.

The match burst into life in the third quarter, with Germany breaking the deadlock thanks to a wonderfully worked goal that was finished brilliantly by Marco Miltkau, who dived at full stretch to chip the ball over Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt and into the unguarded net. The Green Shirts came close to levelling moments later through a sliding Muhammad Zubair, but the Pakistan forward was unable to trouble Germany goalkeeper Tobias Walter with his attempted deflection.

Germany controlled the latter stages of the match to seal the victory, with Mats Grambusch being named the Odisha Player of the Match for his fine performance in midfield. However, Pakistan’s excellent performance suggests that they have the potential to upset the FIH Hero World Rankings at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018.

“Pakistan is a strong team and they played really well today”, said Germany captain Martin Häner after the match. “I’m always happy when we win, it is not always about scoring seven or eight goals. As a defender, I’m happy we didn’t concede.”

Day 4 Results – 1 December 2018: Pool D

Netherlands 7, Malaysia 0
Odisha Player of the Match: Jeroen Hertzberger (NED)

Germany 1, Pakistan 0
Odisha Player of the Match: Mats Grambusch (GER)

Roundup Day 5:

A sensational atmosphere greeted the players of India (WR:5) and Belgium (WR3) as they walked out onto the turf at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium, with a sell-out 15,000 people packed into the venue to witness a key match in the race for a first-place pool finish and the subsequent place in the quarter-finals that comes with it.

The Red Lions had the best of the first quarter and got their reward eight minutes in, using a clever video referral to win a penalty corner that was clinically dispatched by Alexander Hendrickx. India had chances either side of the first quarter break, although a moment of inspiration from Tom Boon in the second quarter almost doubled the advantage when his improvised deflection hit the frame of the Indian goal.

Much to the delight of the home crowd, India came out firing in the third quarter, piling pressure on the Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists. Eventually, the leveller arrived from the penalty spot, with a stroke being awarded after a goal-bound penalty corner effort hit the body of a Belgian player on the goal-line. Harmanpreet Singh proved to be the coolest man in the stadium, soaking up all the tension and channelling it into an effort that was hard and true, wrongfooting Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch to find the bottom left corner.

The Kalinga Stadium erupted two minutes into the fourth and final quarter when Simranjeet Singh scored his third goal of the competition from close range, putting India very much in the driving seat for that crucial first-place finish in the pool. It proved to be temporary, with Belgium replacing their goalkeeper with an outfield player to turn up the heat on the home favourites. It paid off four minutes from the end when Simon Gougnard slapped home an equaliser after a decisive Belgium move ripped through the Indian defence to complete the scoring.

Commenting about the race to finish first in Pool C – a position currently held by the host nation on goal difference over today’s opponents – India Head Coach Harendra Singh was honest in his assessment. “I think it is wide open”, said Harendra. “With goal difference, we are plus five and they are plus two, but it all comes down to that last game. We can forget about the two previous games, the next match is the one that will decide if we are in the quarter-final.”

For the European teams the action continues on Monday 3rdof December with the second round of Pool A matches taking place. At 1700 IST (UTC +5.30), Spain (WR:8) and France (WR:20) will aim to recover from their respective opening day defeats and get some crucially important points on the board.

The Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 takes place between 28 November and 16 December. The Men’s World Cup is played every four years. For all information regarding the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, including the full schedule, teams, news and more, click here.

Day 5 Results – 2 December 2018: Pool C

India 2, Belgium 2
Odisha Player of the Match: Varun Kumar (IND)

Source material: FIH.ch

Photograph: Joeren Hertzberger celebrates his hattrick! (FIH/Getty Images (c))