As day three finishes with England drawing with China let’s have a look back over the first 3 days of the European performances.

Day 1 Results – 28 November 2018: Pool C

Belgium 2, Canada 1

Odisha Player of the Match: Arthur Van Doren (BEL)

Belgium’s Red Lions (FIH Hero World Ranking: 3) were outstanding in the first quarter of the World Cup opener, taking an early lead against Canada (WR:11) thanks to third-minute goal from Felix Denayer before Thomas Briels had a goal ruled out by the video umpire. Red Lions captain Briels was not to be denied though, firing home a brilliant half-volley mid-way through the second quarter, with Odisha Player of the Match Arthur Van Doren the supplier.

While Belgium were dominant in the first two periods, Canada grew in stature as the game progressed and really hit form in the fourth quarter, enjoying a period of sustained pressure before Mark Pearson reduced the deficit when he forced home from close range. However, the Belgians remained composed in the latter stages to get their campaign off to a winning start.

“We started pretty well, especially knowing it was the first match of the World Cup so there were a few nerves”, said Belgium goal-scorer Felix Denayer after the match. “Leading 2-0 at halftime, we really wanted to push through and get a few more goals but Canada did pretty well. We got a [yellow] card in the fourth quarter and Canada got the goal so we had to control the game, which we did well. We something like 16 shots on goal and six corners, so we will analyse that and see where we can get some more goals from.”

Day 2 Results – 29 November 2018: Pool A
Argentina 4, Spain 3

Odisha Player of the Match: Agustin Mazzilli (ARG)

New Zealand 2, France 1

Odisha Player of the Match: Stephen Jenness (NZL)

The day’s opening match exploded into life from the very beginning, with Argentina (FIH Hero World Ranking: 2) and Spain (WR:8) sharing five goals in the opening quarter. Spain’s Red Sticks lead twice thanks to strikes from Enrique Gonzalez and Josep Romeu with Argentina’s Agustin Mazzilli twice levelling the scores, before Gonzalo Peillat rattled a penalty corner drag-flick between the legs of Spain goalkeeper Quico Cortes to give Argentina a 3-2 lead.

Following a goal-less second quarter, Spain restored parity against the Olympic champions five minutes into the third quarter through Vincenc Ruiz, who fired into the roof of the Argentine goal a split-second after a shot had rebounded off the post.

The scoring in a remarkable game was completed by Peillat, who netted his second with a ferocious penalty corner effort to give Los Leones a hard-earned victory over a Spain side that had excelled.

Speaking after the match, Argentina attacker Lucas Vila was pleased that his side had made a winning start to their title challenge here in Bhubaneswar. “The first half was a bit crazy with a lot of goals, both against and also for us, but in the end, it was a win and it was what we needed, to start the competition in a good way”, said the 32-year-old Olympic gold medallist. “We needed to defend our circle better. We tried to do it today but couldn’t do it in the best way, but at least we could score more than them.”

On Day 2 France (ranked 20th) faced 8th ranked New Zealand a real run for their money. The first quarter was evenly contested, but the Black Sticks opened the scoring in the first minute of the second quarter thanks to an open play strike from Kane Russell, edging his side ahead against a French side that gave a very good account of themselves throughout.

The key moment arrived four minutes from the end of the contest when Odisha Player of the Match Stephen Jenness smashed home from a tight angle to effectively seal a victory for the Black Sticks. France pulled a goal back in the final minute thanks to a penalty corner rocket from team captain Victor Charlet, but New Zealand controlled the dying seconds to claim all three points.

Day 3 Results – 30 November 2018: Pool B

Australia 2, Ireland 1

Odisha Player of the Match: Tim Brand (AUS)

England 2, China 2

Odisha Player of the Match: Du Talake (CHN)

The third day of competition at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 saw Australia make a winning start to their title defence, while 17th ranked China claimed a surprise draw against England as the first Pool B matches of the competition were played.

The Australia (FIH Hero World Ranking:1) versus Ireland (WR:10) match was a fascinating encounter, with the Green Machine producing a fine performance against the title holders. Australia took a 1-0 lead in the contest when Blake Govers launched a powerful penalty corner drag-flick beyond Ireland keeper David Harte 11 minutes into the game, but it was not an advantage they held for long. Ireland stunned the Kookaburras in the second period when a high-quality attack was finished beautifully by Shane O’Donoghue, who produced terrific 3D skills to find a way past Aussie shot-stopper Andrew Charter.

Australia marked the start of the third quarter in style, with Corey Weyer’s sensational, defence-splitting pass from midfield being finished at the second attempt by Odisha Player of the Match Tim Brand, who had shown incredible athleticism to join the attack from defence. It proved to be the decisive blow, with Australia showing all of their class to control the latter stages of the match and get their World Cup title defence off to a winning start. 

Match-winner Brand, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday, said: “We played very well but so did Ireland. Great crowd and I couldn’t have asked for anything better to celebrate my birthday. England is our next game and they’re always a tough opposition. They’re a great team. They’re all quality. We’ll do our homework and hopefully get the win.”

“We always knew it was going to be a tough game, playing the world number one in the first game of the World Cup”, said Ireland’s Jonathan Bell after the match. “I think we put in a great performance, obviously didn’t get the result, but by and large I thought we executed our game plan pretty well so we can be proud of that. We still have a lot of improvements to make before a big game [against China] on Tuesday.”

The day’s other Pool B match saw England (WR:7) take on a China (WR:17) side sitting ten places below them in the FIH Hero World Rankings. Remarkably, it was the team from Asia that took the lead against a nation that has finished fourth in the two most recent editions of the World Cup, with Guo Xiaoping showing superb skills along the backline before flicking above right arm the onrushing George Pinner and into the goal just five minutes into the contest. England responded well, with Mark Gleghorne’s 14th-minute penalty corner drag-flick levelling the scores after a strong passage of play from the Europeans.

Two goal-less quarters followed, leaving China 15 minutes away from claiming the most surprising result of the competition so far. That appeared to change in the 48th minute when Liam Ansell stole possession from a China defender before unleashing a superb backhand strike into the bottom corner to give England a 2-1 lead.

However, there was to be one final twist in the tale. With less than two minutes remaining, China scored a dramatic equaliser thanks to a powerful penalty corner drag-flick from Du Talake, whose effort found its way into the England goal to give the competition’s second-lowest ranked team a terrific point in their first ever World Cup match.

The action continues on Day Four (Saturday 1st December), with the teams in Pool D finally getting their respective campaigns underway. The Netherlands (WR:4) take on Malaysia (WR:12), a team now coached by one of their most famous tacticians in the shape of Roelant Oltmans, at 1700 IST (UTC+5.30), before Germany (WR:6) face Pakistan (WR:13) at 1900.

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.

Source material: FIH.ch 

Photograph: Arthur Van Doren (BEL) (FIH/ Getty Images (c))