Bhubaneshwar: Ranked world No 8, Spain almost pulled off an upset but ultimately went down fighting 3-4 against Olympic champions and world No 2 Argentina in an epic Hockey World Match at the Kalinga Stadium on Thursday.

Enrique Gonzalez missed tapping the ball home from the goalmouth at the last second of the match, which if he’d connected might have salvaged Spain and earned them a well-deserved point, instead Argentina emerged winners. The

The match got off to an explosive start, witnessing five goals in the first quarter.

In the third minute of the game, three of Spain’s attackers – Enrique Gonzalez, Alvaro Iglesias and Visec Ruiz – capitalised on a defensive lapse by Argentina, hounded Juan Gilardi in his own circle to snatch the ball back. Iglesias passed the ball to Gonzalez, who scored from the goalmouth.

The first equaliser of the game, which happened all too quickly, stunned Spain. A minute later, Juan Lopez from the right flank drove the ball across the net and Agustin Mazzilli, outstretched his stick, deflected into it.

The next nine minutes witnessed some high-tension, end-to-end hockey, with both teams creating numerous chances, causing a delirium in the stands.

All hell broke loose in the last two minutes of the first quarter. Spain restored their one-goal lead after Josep Romeu converted a penalty corner through a variation. Within a minute, Mazzilli made another goal-scoring deflection to equalise the score — Argentina, yet again, fighting back instantly.

As the hooter went for the first quarter, Argentina’s talisman – Gonzalo Peillat – put his team in the lead for the first time after converting a penalty corner with a straight, fierce drag-flick that went between the ‘keeper’s legs and into the net. Argentina, remarkably, finished the quarter leading 3-2 after trailing twice.

That both teams are defensively strong is well-established – the total number of shots on goals (Argentina’s three plus Spain’s two) at half-time testifies this. But they were exquisite whilst attacking as well. All the shots they attempted, they converted.

The second-quarter, albeit goal-free, wasn’t bereft of thrills. Both teams made their best efforts to score but they – after the madness of the first quarter – fortified their defence.

In the 35th minute, Spain fought back. Enrique Gonzalez, from the right, passed the ball to Alvaro Iglesias on the left. The ball went to Vicenc Ruiz, who from the right flank, drove the ball into the net, equalising at 3-3.

The irresistible Peillat converted a penalty corner again in the 49th minute, which, ultimately, proved to be the winner.