Day 6 of FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 brought the conclusion of the group stage action from Pool C and Pool D, as Netherlands and England topped their groups, booking their quarterfinals spots, while Malaysia, New Zealand, India and Spain now move on to the crossovers.
Malaysia and New Zealand played the first game with Malaysia needing a win to overtake New Zealand for the second spot in the group, while New Zealand just needed a draw to stay ahead of Malaysia on goal difference. What unfolded was an enthralling contest with Malaysia grabbing the first two goals of the game, but the Kiwis responded with two quickfire goals in the 4th quarter to level the scores. Malaysia though did manage to score a winner with two minutes left on the clock to seal the win and grab the second spot in Pool C, with New Zealand finishing 3rd.
Netherlands were up next against Chile who had been resilient in their first two games of the tournament. Netherlands came into the game in a menacing mood and scored 14 past the Chilean defence to set a new record for the biggest margin of victory in an FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup.
Action then moved over to Pool D as Spain and England went up with all four spots in the group undecided. Spain started the game brightly, but failed to find their scoring touch, while England made the best of their opportunities, scoring twice before the half. The second half followed a similar pattern, as Spain’s scoring touch deserted them, while the English defence withstood all the pressure and launched counter-attacks that helped add two more goals in the second half for an emphatic 4-0 win.
The final match of the day was between hosts India, playing their first match in Bhubaneswar against the plucky Welsh team that had nothing to lose. India made a great start to the game holding more than 80% possession in the first half, but their finishing wasn’t the best as they were up by two goals until the 43rd minute when Wales found a way back, scoring twice in two minutes to end quarter three on level terms. Akashdeep Singh who had scored India’s second, put them ahead again at the start of the 4th quarter and Harmanpreet Singh added his first goal in the final minute to carry India to a win and 2nd position in Pool D.
Match 1: Malaysia vs New Zealand 3-2
New Zealand started the game stronger and nearly got themselves an early goal with a 3 on 1 attack in the Malaysian circle, but Kingstone’s shot was rather tame in the end. Kane Russell and Razie Rahim were off target from the first penalty corners for both sides as the game started to open up. Malaysia were the first to score as Faizal Saari got a slight touch on a ball into the circle that took it past an onrushing Dixon giving Malaysia a crucial lead. Malaysia had fewer circle penetrations by half time, but they had the better chances to score the second goal of the game through Shello Silverius and Marhan Jalil, with both missing great chances, to keep the score at 1-0 at the break.
Second half followed the same pattern as New Zealand kept possession and territory but were well kept out by the Malaysian deep defence, while everytime Malaysia went into attack, they created great scoring opportunities. They added the second goal from their 6th penalty corner as Razie Rahim buried a low drag flick into the bottom left corner of the goal. The final quarter saw New Zealand score twice through Phillips and Lane to temporarily move into the 2nd place on the Pool table, but Malaysia grabbed the lead back with less than 2 minutes left, as Faizal Saari scored his second of the game to get Malaysia the 3 points and 2nd place in Pool C.
Marhan Jalil was awarded player of the match for his great performance in the Malaysian defence. Double goalscorer Faizal Saari said after the match: “It was a good team performance as we stuck to our strategies. We will enjoy this moment and this win first and then we will think about the cross-overs.”
Match 2: Netherlands vs Chile 14-0
Netherlands came into the final pool game with 2 near perfect wins, while Chile came in with 2 closely fought contests where they ended up on the losing side. On paper it was an uphill task for Chile to take much from the game and the first half proved that as the Dutch played incredible attacking hockey to score five times in the first half, with Vilder, Thijs and Brinkman scoring once, while Jansen added two from penalty corners.
The second half saw Netherlands turn up the pressure, scoring 6 goals in the 3rd quarter and 3 more in the final quarter. In the process Netherlands broke the record for the biggest win in the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup history, previously held by Australia, when they scored 12 unanswered goals against South Africa in the 2010 Men’s World Cup. For the Dutch, Jip Janssen top scored with 4 penalty corner goals, with captain Thierry Brinkman also grabbing a hattrick in the 59th minute. In total, 8 Dutch players got themselves on the scoresheet as they moved into the quarterfinals.
Jip Janssen was awarded player of the match and said: “I didn’t know we had broken the world record, so that is good to know. It was a great team performance overall and in terms of penalty corners it’s good to get the rhythm going and not just for me but for the injectors and stoppers as well.”
Match 3: Spain vs England 0-4
Spain and England came into the encounter with 3 and 4 points respectively with all positions from 1-4 undecided in Pool D so a win was crucial for both teams. The teams started the first half on even footing, with Spain dominating possession and territory but failing to create any goalscoring opportunity at the end of their moves. England though used their limited opportunities to perfection converting their first penalty corner opportunity through a rebound shot by Phil Roper and adding a second through a David Condon field goal.
Spanish players’ shoulders started to drop in the second half as they kept missing from great scoring opportunities and when they got shots on target, English keeper Oliver Payne showed why he is one of the best in the business pulling off a string of impressive saves to maintain England’s run of clean sheets at the World Cup. England then capitalised in the final quarter scoring twice in quick succession to take their goal difference up to 9, with India requiring an 8-goal victory to usurp them and top the table for a direct spot in the quarterfinals.
Phil Roper, scorer of England’s first goal, was awarded the player of the match and said: “I think going through the entire pool stage without conceding a goal shows how good our defence is. We are a really hungry bunch and that makes the difference and allows us to play freely and contend in big games like this.”
Match 4: India vs Wales 4-2
India had a mountain to climb if they wanted to earn the top spot in Pool D and qualify for the quarterfinals without having to go through the crossovers, needing to win the game by 8 goals to overtake England in the standings. But Wales were no pushovers and competed well in the first half, keeping India at bay till the 22nd minute. Shamsher finally found the back of the goal for India with a thundering strike after Harmanpreet’s attempted drag flick was run down by the Welsh first rusher. That would be the only goal India would score in the first half as hopes of topping the group faded for the hosts.
The second half started with an Indian goal by Akashdeep early in the 3rd quarter, but as India searched for more goals, Wales got a chance to launch counters of their own and as the 3rd quarter came to a close, Wales scored twice to stun the crowd and go into the final 15 minutes on level terms. Akashdeep added a second stunning goal at the start of 4th quarter to give India the lead back and Harmanpreet finally opened his account in the final minute of the game as India won a penalty corner after Wales had taken their keeper off for an outfield player. The result confirmed India’s 2nd spot in Pool D and they will now take on New Zealand, who finished 3rd in Pool C, in the crossovers for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Akashdeep was awarded player of the match for his two stunning goals and said: “We weren’t very good in the first half in terms of executing our plans, but the second half was better.”