Bhubaneswar: India came up with a dominant performance to kick off their Hockey World Cup campaign with a 5-0 win over South Africa in a Group C encounter.
Simranjeet Singh (2), Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay were on the score-sheet for India as they outplayed world No 15 South Africa at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium, swarmed with people.
The first quarter must’ve been overwhelming for the South Africans – especially those who haven’t witnessed crowds at Kalinga Hockey Stadium before. The brilliant pace of the Indian attack accompanied by the gargantuan roar surrounding the arena were like lightning and thunder. In this extreme ambiance, South Africa conceded two goals.
The first one was a trademark Mandeep Singh goal. First, he found the South African defender’s foot to earn a penalty corner for his team. When Harmanpreet Singh’s drag-flick was parried away by the outstretched hand of the visiting side’s goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse, Mandeep pounced on the ball and scooped it over the goalie, into the net in the 10th minute.
The second goal was a result of two good passes. Varun Kumar, from just outside the 25-yard line, hit the ball to Simranjeet Singh, who made a smart deflection towards Akashdeep Singh near the goalmouth. Akashdeep, seeing Pieterse diving to his right, tapped the ball to the opposite corner of the net to double the lead within two minutes.
India could have created more chances and pulled further away from South Africa in the first quarter but inside the penalty area, they needed better execution of ideas.
The half-time break seemed to have helped the South Africans as they seemed to play better in the beginning of the third quarter. In the first 10 minutes of this phase, they had more possession, saved a Penalty Corner and were starting to transfer the pressure on the hosts.
But the next 10 minutes shattered their hopes. In the 42nd minute Mandeep, whizzing along the right flank, passed the ball to Simranjeet from the baseline. Simranjeet coolly slotted it past the keeper.
He scored once again (in the 46th minute) after Lalit Kumar Upadhyay had struck the fourth goal for India before the teams broke for the last quarter.
On Sunday, India will next take on world No 3 Belgium, who defeated Canada 2-1 in an earlier match.