Marquee clash: India set up Pakistan date
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Just when it seemed like the Hockey Junior World Cup was over for India and there was nothing much left to fight for, the 9th to 12th classification results on Thursday set up a match which often overshadows everything else in the subcontinent: an India-Pakistan clash.
Out of the last-eight race, India defeated Argentina 4-2 late in the evening after Pakistan had hammered South Africa 4-0 to give some relevance to their respective campaigns.
A day before Sunday's final, the two teams will play their 'final' — for the 9th place — a win in which will be massive consolation for either side of which much was expected. It will also mean immense pressure, something these young players from both sides haven't handled well so far. India's coach Baljit Saini was already trying to underplay the significance of the encounter.
India showed what difference playing with abandon can make to their game. Liberated, they controlled the pace of the match in a manner they haven't in the tournament so far.
While they were guilty of conceding early goals in their previous three matches, on Thursday, they opened the account first, and then quickly doubled the lead. In the fourth minute, Ramandeep Singh, who had barely made an impact so far in the tournament, neatly collected a long ball from Pradeep Mor near Argentina's striking circle. He then beat two defenders on the turn and slammed the ball home through the goalkeeper's legs.
Two minutes later, Ramandeep played his part in setting up the second goal. He picked out Talwinder Singh in the circle who drew a foul out of his Argentine marker. Penalty corner.
In their previous matches, whenever India got their first PC, they would invariably have their No.1 drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh sitting on the bench. Today, it seemed, India could do no wrong. Gurjinder was on the field, ready to take the flick, but pusher Ramandeep passed it to Satbir Singh, who set it up for Amit Rohidas. The defenders didn't expect it and mistakenly charged towards Gurjinder, while Rohidas, with a clear view of the goal, took a low hit that beat the goalkeeper on his right side. Six minutes. India 2, Argentina 0.