Bhubaneswar, June 16: The two highest-ranked teams in this tournament clinched the two top spots. India scored no less than 35 goals, much to the delight of their great fans in the FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar, Odisha 2019.
The home team and South Africa have earned a berth in the FIH Olympic qualifiers. Defeating the USA, Japan took third place. India beat South Africa by 5-1 in the final. Japan defeated USA by 4-2 for the third position.
In front of their home fans, India wanted to live up to their supremacy in the FIH World Rankings. It did not take them very long to take the lead with a goal from Varun Kumar from a penalty corner. The Asian team was playing mostly in South Africa’s half during the first quarter and doubled their lead, with another penalty corner; this time from Harmanpreet Singh.
South Africa spared no effort to come back into the match but they struggled to create good chances. And it was India who added another goal to their tally with a penalty stroke from Harmanpreet Singh, therefore, becoming the joint top goalscorer of the tournament with Russia’s Semen Matkovskiy (6 goals each) at that moment.
Half-time came with a solid 3-0 lead for Graham Reid’s side.
At the start of the second half, South Africa missed a good opportunity which, if converted, would have given hope and confidence to the African champions. Instead of that, India took a 4 goals advantage through Vivek Prasad who converted from short distance as a result of an offering from Simranjeet Singh after brilliant dribbling in the circle.
South Africa were determined to find the target and they were a step away from doing so on two consecutive attempts from Keenan Horne and Richard Pautz towards the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter of this tournament saw the home team continue attacking and Varun Kumar scored his second penalty corner. He too was taking his goal tally in this event to six, therefore joining Harmanpreet Singh – later chosen Man of the Match - and Semen Matkovskiy at the top of the goalscorer standings. Meanwhile, the African champions also found the target as Richard Pautz was in the right place to hit the ball over the goal-line from a penalty corner.
India’s Head Coach Graham Reid: "It was a really interesting tournament. There are always things which we can improve. I think that the areas that we worked on in the last 2-3 months, we’ll be continuing. The boys will now have a couple of weeks off, spend time with their families and recharge their batteries. Then we have a really hard month in July and we go to the Olympic Games’ test event in Tokyo in August. It will be a busy period."
South Africa’s Head Coach Garreth Ewing, "First, we’ll take from this tournament a step to the next round. It was really good for us to spend some time together as a team. The first couple of games were tough but we progressed nicely, then we found our rhythm and we were very competitive and really happy to play against India in the final. We lost to a very good team tonight."
Result: India 5, South Africa 1 (Final)
Man of the Match: Harmanpreet Singh (IND) (UNI)