Rated as strong favourites for the title, hosts India started their campaign on a resounding note spanking Canada 4-0 in their opening Pool D match of the Junior Hockey World Cup at the Major Dhyan Chand Astroturf Stadium, here on Thursday.
India were by far the better side on display and scored through Mandeep Singh (35th minute), Harmanpreet Singh (46th), Varun Kumar (60th) and Ajit Pandey (66th) to garned full three points from the encounter.
There was always an uncertainity about the conduct of the match late in the evening due to dense fog, which forced the International Hockey Federation to start the game 15 minutes early.
Going by form and expectations, India were considered as overwhelming favourites against Canada and the hosts started on an expected note even though they were little shaky and nervous to start with.
But as time progressed, the Indian colts got their acts together and started attacking the Canadian defence relentlessly.
Canada, who has 13 Indian origin players in its 18-member squad, on the other hand, were pretty happy to sit back and defend and rely on counter attacks to surprise the Indians.
The hosts had the first chance in the fourth minute but Armaan Qureshi reverse hit from close range struck the side netting.
India earned two back-to-back penalty corners in the 12th minute but on both occasion Harmanpreet Singh’s tries were saved by Canadian custodian Iqwinder Gill.
Injury-return Mandeep Singh, who played for the senior side on many occasions in the past, then came close to giving India the lead but his reverse shot from a goal mouth melee was saved by Canadian goalkeeper Gill.
It continued to be a story of missed chances for India, this time Parvinder Singh, who hit the left wood work from Sumit’s pass from inside the circle.
India finally tasted success in the final minute of the first half through Mandeep, who found himself in the right position at the right time to hand India the lead from a move that was initiated by Harmanpreet.
India stepped up the pressure after the change of ends and missed a few chances in the initial periods of the second half.
In the 44th minute, skipper Harjeet Singh missed when he shot wide from inside the circle.
India were awarded a penalty stroke after Canadian defence wrongly saved Varun’s flick from their fourth penalty corner and Harmanpreet stood up to double the lead.
Varun then registered his name in the scoresheet by scoring from India’s fifth penalty corner after Harjeet fumbled in stopping the push. Four Minutes from the final hooter, Ajit made the scoreline 4-0 in favour of India after receiving a pass from Manpreet (Jr).
India will next England in their next pool match on Saturday. Earlier in the day, England defeated South Africa 4-2 in another Pool C encounter.
Also, Germany and New Zealand made winning starts by defeating Spain 2-1 and Japan 1-0 respectively.
Dense fog forces FIH to reschedule match timings
Adverse weather conditions, on Thursday, forced the International Hockey Federation to reschedule the evening match timings of the men’s Junior Hockey World Cup, which began at the Major Dhyan Chand Astroturf Stadium.
The FIH said in a statement that the timing of last match of every day from now onwards has been advanced due to dense fog. “Due to persistent concerns surrounding the heavy fog that has been present in the early mornings and late evenings, the FIH, in consultation with Hockey India and our global broadcast partner Star Sports, has made the proactive decision to make adjustments to the match schedule,” the FIH said.
“With the existing adverse weather conditions set to continue, the FIH felt it was important to review the schedule in order to minimise any further disruption,” it added.
In fact, Wednesday’s last match between India and Canada started 15 minutes early from its scheduled start of 7 pm after a colourful and musical opening ceremony, which was attended by UP Governor Ram Naik.
As per the revised scheduled announced by FIH, the last match of every day will now be played from 6 pm instead of earlier scheduled 7 pm and 8 pm starts.
“For all subsequent days, the final match of the day will commence at 18.00 hrs IST. To achieve this, two pool matches will now be played on Tuesday 13th December, which was originally the designated rest day,” the FIH said.