Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Indian junior men’s hockey team went down 1-3 in a hard-fought bronze medal match to Spain in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday at the FIH Hockey Junior Men’s World Cup Malaysia 2023. 

Sunil Jojo (28’) scored the lone goal for India while Nicolas Alvarez (25’, 51’) and Pau Petchame (40’) scored for the winning side.   

The bronze medal match lived up to its billing, with both sides putting up a fine show. India, which faced Spain in their Pool stage match and lost 1-4, made a fine start pushing for circle penetrations early in the game. They made early inroads, winning a PC in the seventh minute but could not convert. While the next few minutes continued to witness an inspired attack from Indian forward line, nothing could come off it. 

With the second quarter starting at a 0-0 stalemate, Alvarez opened the scoreline for Spain with a brilliant tomahawk from the corner of the goal. Though India goalie Mohit got his pads on it, the effort wasn’t enough to stop the goal. Only three minutes later, India gave a resounding reply when Sunil Jojo scored off a rebound from a PC execution in the 28th minute.  

 The equaliser instilled fresh confidence in the Indian side, which made some brave forays into Spanish D. But Spain’s goalie Capellades was on target to make some fine saves. The half-time break, seemed to have fostered Spain’s aspirations for a medal as they came back with fresh ammunition to test the Indian defence.   

 A good structure in the forward line ensured they found the break through with Petchame scoring the second goal for his team, thus taking a narrow lead of 2-1 in the 40th minute. The final 15 minutes was incredibly tense for Indian fans who had turned up in large numbers. The team began the fourth quarter with an effort to convert a circle penetration. But they could not breach the Spanish defence.   

In the meantime, Cabre Verdiell set up a stupendous goal, dribbling in from the left flank with Alvarez deflecting the ball into an empty goal as Mohith had moved to the other side. This 51st minute goal put India behind by 1-3 but hopes of a comeback remained as India won a PC in the 54th minute. However, Araijeet Hundal’s effort was cleared by Spanish defenders.   

India put up a brave fight towards the dying moments, but Spain remained in lead handing India yet another heart-break loss in the medal match. In the previous edition in 2021 too, India had lost in the bronze medal match.
 

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