Vice-captain Sanjay scored a hat-trick but it was not enough as France stunned defending champions and favourites India 5-4 in their opening Pool B match of the FIH Men’s Junior Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha on Wednesday.

France skipper Timothee Clement (1st, 23rd and 32nd minute) scored a hat-trick of drag flicks for his side, while Benjamin Marque (7th) and Corentin Sellier (48th) were the other goal scorers for world no. 26 France. Sanjay (15th, 57th, 58th) too converted three penalty corners for India while Uttam Singh (10th) scored the other goal for the hosts.

Credit: Watch Hockey

FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup, as it happened: India lose a thriller 4-5 against France

France stunned India in the first minute of the match when the defence of the hosts was caught off guard by Clement. The Frenchmen continued to attack the Indian citadel, which resulted in a second goal through a field goal from Marque.

Down 0-2, a stunned India responded back within three minutes and pulled a goal back with a field strike from Uttam Singh after a drag flick was not cleared and the Indian capitalised on the defensive chaos. Pumped up, the defending champions kept up the pressure with a flurry of attacks but the French defence stood tall to thwart them.

India equalised at the stroke of the first quarter through a penalty corner converted by Sanjay, the first of his three.

Minutes into the second quarter, India earned their third penalty corner but Uttam Singh was way off the target. France took the lead once again in the 23rd minute when skipper Clement scored from a penalty corner.

The French continued to attack and earned a couple of penalty corners but the Indian defence stood tall. Two minutes from half time, India secured their fourth penalty corner but the French goalkeeper produced a terrific save to deny the hosts who went into the interval trailing 2-3.

Two minutes into the third quarter, France extended their lead when they got three successive penalty corners, the last of which was converted by skipper Clement to take a 4-2 lead.

In the 38th minute, India secured another penalty corner but wasted the opportunity.

In the 48th minute, France made the scoreline 5-2 in their favour when Sellier scored from a field effort.

Trailing by three goals, the Indians tried to turn the script and in the process attacked the France defence in numbers.

Sanjay scored two more goals through two more penalty corners in the 57th and 58th minutes to bring down the scoreline to 4-5 but it was too little, too late.

“We won as a team, not as a single person, we won together”, said France captain Clément - who represented France men at the 2018 Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar - after the game. “It is incredible, and I am very happy for the team. To start the competition [in this way] is perfect. It’s important that we continue and win the other games because the competition is very long. It is not finished.”

The French registered the first big upset of the tournament on the opening day and make India’s lives harder in the group. In the other Pool B match, Poland prevailed 1-0 against Canada. India will likely have to defeat both teams to finish in the top two.

Belgium 5-1 South Africa (Pool A)

2016 Junior World Cup silver medallists Belgium made the perfect start to their competition by claiming a 5-1 victory over South Africa in the opening match of the day. Roman Duvekot put Belgium into the lead seven minutes into the contest from a penalty corner, but South Africa hit back with a PC of their own when Jaques van Tonder netted on the stroke of quarter time. Nelson Onana restored Belgium’s lead with a second quarter field goal before the Europeans kicked on after half time. Duvakot, who was named Player of the Match, claimed a second goal from open play before strikes from Arnon van Dessel and Rik van Cleynenbreugel wrapped up all three points.

Germany 5-2 Pakistan (Pool D)
Six times Junior World Cup champions Germany cruised to a 5-2 victory over Pakistan in their opening fixture, with Robert Duckscheer scoring twice to be named Player of the Match. Germany had the ball in the Pakistan net inside the opening sixty seconds when Michel Struthoff’s strike deflected into the goal via a Green Shirts stick before Duckscheer added a second field goal just before the end of the first quarter. Pakistan hit back through Abdul Shahid early in the second quarter, but Maximilian Siegberg and Benedikt Schwarzhaupt took the score to 4-1 before Germany goalkeeper Anton Brinckman saved a penalty stroke ahead of the half time break. Muhammad Hammadudin gave Pakistan hope when he found the net with 11 minutes left to play, but Duckscheer’s emphatic second of the match put the result beyond all doubt.

Canada 0-1 Poland (Pool B)

Poland claimed a narrow triumph over Canada in the third match of the day, giving the Europeans a wonderful platform to build on as they attempt to reach the competition quarter-finals. The only goal of the game came from the stick of Eryk Bembenek, who slapped home a penalty corner from the top of the circle in the 34th minute. It proved to be enough for the Poles to claim all three points, although Canada missed a glorious chance to get on the score-sheet through a penalty stroke just before half time, with Roopkanwar Dhillon’s powerful flick hitting the left post rather than the back of the net.

Malaysia 2-1 Chile (Pool A)

Two brilliant penalty corner goals in the third quarter helped Malaysia overcome a strong challenge from Pan American champions Chile, with the team from Asia emerging 2-1 winners. Both penalty corner routines were perfectly executed, with Kamarulzaman Kamaruddin smashing home the opening goal in the 34th minute before Syarman Mat’s superb, angled deflection in the 43rd minute established what proved to be an unassailable lead. Sebastian Wolansky’s fine backhand strike from a penalty corner gave Chile a glimmer of hope, but it was Malaysia who deservedly took all three points from the contest.

(With PTI and FIH inputs)