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India clinch their second Hockey Junior World Cup title

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Lucknow, Dec 18 (IANS)

Home favourites India produced a clinical performance here on Sunday to outclass maiden finalists Belgium 2-1 and clinch their second Hockey Junior World Cup title after a 15-year-gap.

Gurjant Singh (eighth minute) and Simranjeet Singh (22nd) scored the two goals for India, who had won their previous Under-21 world title in 2001 in Hobart, Australia.

Belgium scored their goal at the death via Fabrice van Bockrijck at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here. The goal didn’t matter much for India as it was the final action of the match.

With this win, India became only the second nation after Germany to win the Under-21 title more than once. Germany, who overpowered Australia 3-0 to secure the third spot on the podium, have won six titles.

With both the teams coming into the match unbeaten, the contest was expected to be an enticing competition between two bands of talented youngsters.

And it were the hosts who looked to be the better side from the very beginning. Urged on by a vociferous crowd in good attendance, India got off to an emphatic start.

Varun Kumar’s long aerial ball in the Belgian circle forced Belgian goalkeeper Loic van Doren to come out but he couldn’t fully palm the ball away with Gurjant lurking near him. The Indian took the ball to the left, dodging past van Doren before employing a ripping back-hand strike from a very tight angle that hit the top corner of the far post, giving the hosts the early advantage.

India’s midfield, led by Harjeet Singh, did a fine job of restricting and breaking the flow of the Belgian game.

One such fine example turned into the second goal for India as link-man Santa Singh caught short an opposition counter-attack few metres ahead of the half-line before making a cross-field pass to his left. Nilakanta Sharma fed Simranjeet at the top of the circle and the latter delivered a clinical finish, giving no chance to van Doren, to make it 2-0.

Towards the end of the first half, Belgium had their moments but couldn’t make their chances count as India defended as a team. The Belgians even earned a penalty corner but they couldn’t trouble Indian custodian Vikas Dahiya.

Trailing 0-2, Belgium tried their best to turn things around in the second half but India’s superiority in one-on-one duels helped them keep things under control and hold their 2-0 lead.

Moreover, India’s balancing act in defending the two-goal advantage and pushing for the third goal was just perfect and captain Harjeet deserved all the credit for controlling the tempo of the game.

Gurjant had the chance to make it 3-0 when he won a battle with Martin Lambeau just five metres ahead of the Belgian circle. Gurjant faced a one-on-one situation against goalkeeper van Doren but the latter managed to keep the Indian at bay.

Later, India got two penalty corners to put an end to Belgium’s challenge in the match but penalty corner exponents Varun Kumar and Harmanpreet Singh couldn’t make them count.

Belgium, in their pursuit of pulling one back, kept fighting and eventually it came, with barely 22 seconds left on the clock. With the hooter already being blown, the penalty corner was the last shot of the game and van Bockrijck was successful in his job. But they couldn’t celebrate the goal, as the match ended, triggering huge celebrationd in the Indian camp.

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Egypt, Saudi Arabia play for pride

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Volgograd (Russia), June 25: Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia will aim to exit the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a win when they meet in their final Group A match here on Monday.

Both teams have lost their opening two matches and have no chance of advancing to the next stages.

With their talismanic forward Mohammed Salah struggling with his fitness following a rather hurried return from a left shoulder dislocation, Egypt have struggled in the two matches they played so far.

Playing without Salah in their campaign against mighty Uruguay, the Egyptians gave a good account of themselves in a 0-1 loss to the two-time World Cup winners.

Salah’s presence in Egypt’s second group match against Russia failed to lift the seven-time African champions as they crashed to a 1-3 defeat.

The Saudis have fared no better.

They were thrashed 0-5 by hosts Russia in the tournament opener, which prompted authorities back home to call for punishments and sanctions against the players.

The Saudis displayed markedly better in their second match before conceding a narrow 0-1 loss to Uruguay.

“We will play against Saudi Arabia to regain wellness and achieve our new ambitions after the early exit at this World Cup, which was a big shock and blow. The team will be at its best against Saudi Arabia and there are no excuses for not winning and providing a better performance,” Egypt coach Hector Cuper was quoted as saying by Fifa.com.

“I admit that I found the best reception and best treatment in Egypt, with different views and philosophies, which is normal in football. The players have made great sacrifices and concessions and I thank them very much for everything they have done over the past period,” he added.

“We must not forget that the World Cup is our first global experience and an experience that you can build on. It must give confidence to the players.”

IANS

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Tony Kroos fives Germany win over Sweden

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Sochi, June 24 : Tony Kroos produced a last gasp winner as Germany revived their campaign with a 2-1 win over Sweden in a Group F match of the FIFA World Cup here.

Ola Toivonen gave Sweden the lead with a superb finish in the 32nd minute during the match on Saturday.

Germany displayed large doses of their famed fighting spirit as they staged a strong comeback in the second half.

Marco Reus (48th minute) got the equaliser early in the second half.

Germany left everything to the last minute, scoring in the 95th minute, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing elimination from the World Cup in the group stage.

The Germans felt disaster coming when Ola Toinoven scored the first goal in the 32nd minute, giving Sweden a 1-0 lead by half time, Efe news reports.

To Germany’s relief, Marco Reus scored three minutes into the second half off a cross from the left by Timo Werner, giving his teammates the jolt of energy and confidence they needed.

Germany soon took control of the match, achieving nearly 80 per cent possession of the ball and finding several clear chances to score, although the Swedish defence held the line.

Even though Jerome Boateng received a red card in the 83rd minute, the Germans continued to play as one would expect from the former World Cup champions.

In the 89th minute, Germany’s Mario Gomez was close to scoring with a superb header that was deflected by keeper Robin Olsen.

It wasn’t until the 95th minute that Germany sealed their 2-1 victory with a free kick by Toni Kroos from the left of the box, beautifully curling the ball into the far corner of the net.

The rest of the game saw the Germans dominate as they created and wasted a hatful of chances.

The Swedish defence also did well, holding the defending champions at bay with some last ditch defending.

Kroos finally found the winner five minutes into second half added time when he curled in a free-kick at the far post.

Sweden and Germany are now tied in Group F with three points each, while Mexico is in first place with six points and South Korea is last with zero point.

Germany have three points from two matches and will face South Korea in their final group engagement.

Sweden, who had beaten the Koreans in their first match, remained on three points as well.

They will take on Mexico in their third and final group match.

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World Cup 2018: Germany face must-win against Sweden

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Sochi, June 23: Holders Germany will have to beat Sweden in order to avoid an early exit from the FIFA World Cup when the two sides meet in a crunch Group F clash at the Fisht Stadium here on Saturday.

Blessed with a strong squad brimming with talented players, Germany were hot contenders to become the first team in 56 years to retain the World Cup.

But after a shock 0-1 defeat to Mexico, the jolted four-time winners will have their task cut out against Sweden. A reversal will all but end their campaign.

“Everyone is aware that this is our first ‘final’, it’s annoying that it comes so early, but it’s self-inflicted,” team director Oliver Bierhoff was quoted as saying.

Germany were all over the place in the first half against Mexico and their heroics in Brazil four years ago seemed distant.

After the defeat, there have been catcalls to drop under-performing players like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira.

Sweden, meanwhile, will believe they can cause another upset after their confidence lifting 1-0 win over Korea Republic. This was their first win in the competition since hosting the tournament in 1958.

The Swedes are no strangers to upsetting the odds, beating France during qualification and getting past Italy in the play-offs, so an under-performing German side will hold no fears for Janne Anderson’s men.

IANS

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