Day 5 of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup action continued from Bhubaneswar as teams from Pool B played their second round of matches.
First up were Japan and Korea who were searching for their first points having lost their opening encounters against Germany and Belgium respectively. Japan were quick off the block, scoring inside 70 seconds, but Korea stormed back into the game, scoring twice through Lee Jungjun to take the lead inside the half that they would hold on till the end to win 2-1. The result takes Korea to 3 points, while Japan are still in search of their first.
Germany and Belgium are two teams known for producing entertaining encounters and handsomely delivered on that promise in the final match of the day. Belgium came roaring out of the gates and were the first to get on the scoreboard. Germany, who were slow off the blocks, gradually grew into the game and levelled the score before the interval. The Germans carried the momentum into the second half and finally managed to score in the 53rd minute, but an untimely green card for Thies Pirnz allowed Belgium to dominate for 2 minutes and they managed to get back on level terms through a goal by Victor Wegnez.
The results keep Pool B incredibly tight with Korea on 3 points trailing Germany and Belgium who sit on 4 points each, with Belgium on top of the table thanks to their superior goal difference.
Match 1: Korea vs Japan 2-1
Korea and Japan are two teams known for their defence-first approaches, but it only took Japan 70 seconds to get on the board, as they won an early penalty corner which was powerfully deposited into the right corner of the net by Ken Nagayoshi. Korea would not trail for long though as Lee Jungjun was sent through on the goal by Jang and smartly lifted the ball over the keeper and into the goal. Lee then pounced on a loose ball in the circle in the second quarter to give Korea the lead. Japan had two huge chances to level the score before the end of the half. Koji Yamasaki was the first to miss a gilt-edged chance when he skied his shot with just the keeper to beat. Captain Seren Tanaka then struck the post with a little over a minute left in the half, but the rebound could not be struck in by the Japanese players who had flocked the Korean circle.
The second half produced plenty of attacking opportunities but it was the goalkeepers who had the biggest say in the game. Takashi Yoshikawa for Japan and Jaehyeon Kim for Korea were outstanding in the goal. Kim in particular was huge for Korea as Japan mounted attack after attack on the Korean goal in search of an equaliser. Japan earned a penalty corner with 2 seconds left on the clock, but a failed trap at the top of the circle ended Japan’s chances of equalising and Korea walked away from the game with all 3 points.
Lee Jungjun who scored both the goals for Korea was awarded player of the match. Speaking after the game, Korea captain Lee Namyong said: “Happy with the win. It got a bit nervy in the end with Japan winning the penalty corners, but we stuck to our defensive techniques and got the win.”
Match 2: Germany vs Belgium 2-2
Germany and Belgium promised to be a cracking contest and the first quarter delivered on the promise. Belgium earned the first penalty corner of the game and it was nearly scored by Alex Hendrickx, but for a goal line clearance by post defender Müller. Germany then had a glorious chance as a cross from the right fell to Ruhr, but his snap-shot was well saved by Vanasch. Belgium did end up scoring the opener as Charlier dribbled his way through three German defenders and his powerful hit snuck into the bottom left corner of the goal. Belgium continued to dominate possession and territory in the second quarter, but it was Germany who found the goal, with Wellen taking a free hit quickly and smashing a powerful shot from the right that beat Vanasch on the far post and went in to keep the score tied at half-time.
The second half remained equally competitive as both teams created plenty of chances but a combination of great keeping by Stadler and some off target shots by German forwards kept the score at 1-1 until the 52nd minute when a push inside the Belgian circle earned Germany a penalty stroke that was dispatched with ease by Tom Grambusch to give Germany a crucial lead. Belgium were back level inside 2 minutes from conceding as an unselfish pass by Denayer presented Wegnez with a great scoring opportunity and he sent his shot into the bottom left corner perfectly. Stadler was once again called upon to make a big save in the 59th minute as Belgium made one final push, but he was up to the task and the teams ended up taking 1 point each from the encounter.
Niklas Wellen was awarded player of the match and said: “Anytime you are up a goal with 7 minutes to go, you can’t be happy with a draw. But for the game overall a draw is a fair result. We weren’t very sharp in the first half and in the second we had chances to go two goals up, which we didn’t take.”