Bhubaneswar: An impressive India thrashed Canada 5-1 to top Pool C and seal a direct berth in the quarterfinals of the men’s hockey World Cup in front of a capacity crowd at the Kalinga Stadium here on Saturday.
India scored four goals in the fourth quarter through Chinglensana Singh (46th minute), Lalit Upadhyay (47th, 57th) and Amit Rohidas (51st) after Harmanpreet Singh gave home team the lead in the 12th minute.
Canada’s lone goal came from the sticks of Floris van Son in the 39th minute.
By virtue of this win, India finished on top of Pool C with seven points ahead of world no.3 Belgium on account of better goal difference.
Belgium, too on seven points, finished second ahead of third placed Canada after thrashing South Africa 5-1 in the other Pool C game earlier in the day. South Africa crashed out of the tournament.
While India qualified directly for the quarterfinals by being the toppers, Belgium and Canada will play in the cross-overs for a place in the last-eight round.
Canada too overcame South Africa by virtue of a better goal difference. Both the teams finished their pool engagements with one point apiece.
India will play their quarterfinal match on December 13.
Earlier in the day, Olympic silver medallist Belgium outclassed South Africa 5-1 in their last pool game.
Alexander Hendrickx (14th, 22nd minutes) scored a brace while Simon Gougnard (18th), Loick Luypaert (30th) and Cedric Charlier (48th) were the other goal-scorer for Belgium.
South Africa, on the other hand, had stunned the world no.3 side just 36 seconds from the start through Nicholas Spooner’s field strike.
The match between India and Canada was touted to be a battle between attack and defence and it panned out exactly the same as the hosts attacked in numbers from the onset to create quite a few scoring chances.
India’s first scoring chance came in the ninth minute when skipper Manpreet Singh’s cross from the left flank was met by Dilpreet Singh in the near post but the Canadian goalkeeper Antoni Kindler positioned himself at the right spot to thwart the danger.
In the next minute, India got their first penalty corner but Canada defended stoutly.
Mandeep Singh was then denied by a good reflex save by the Canada keeper.
The Canadian defence finally surrendered in front of India’s relentless attack when Harmanpreet converted the home team’s second penalty corner in the 12th minute.
The Indians had another penalty corner in the next minute but Amit messed up the chance.
The hosts couldn’t live up to the tempo with which they played in the first quarter, which meant scoring chances subsided as Canada tried to make a comeback.
Canada goalkeeper Kindler came to his side’s rescue twice in the second quarter to keep the scoreline under check.
First Kindler saved Sumit’s reverse shot from top of the box in the 22nd minute and then kept away Akashdeep Singh’s attempt after he was set up by Simranjeet Singh’s burst from 25 yards.
The script, however, changed a little bit after the change of ends with Canada slowly clawing back into the match with some impressive counter-attacks.
Canada are considered as a solid defensive unit and they played like one. Whenever India attacked, a sea of red assembled inside their circle to keep the hosts at bay.
Canada drew parity against the run of play in the 39th minute through a counter-attack. Gordon Johnston found James Wallace just outside the circle, who dribbled past two Indian defenders to set it up for Floris van Son who didn’t make any mistake to complete a fine goal.
Stunned by the equaliser, India went all out and, in the process, scored two quick goals to take a 3-1 lead.
First Chinglensana scored from a rebound and then in the very next minute Lalit slotted the ball in after snatching it just outside the box from Sukhi Panesar.
Four minutes later, Amit converted India’s fourth penalty corner before Lalit scored his second goal of the day, tapping in Sumit’s pass.