Rourkela: A dominant India scored twice in the first and fourth quarters to beat South Africa 5-2 in a classification match and finish joint ninth in the FIH Men’s World Cup here on Saturday.
World number six India earned six penalty corners in the match and scored one from them while South Africa, ranked 14th, got three PCs without converting any one of them. India had 31 circle penetrations in total while South Africa had 22.
With around 60 per cent ball possession, the home side had 14 shots at goal as against nine by South Africa.
Abhishek, who was named player of the match, opened the scoring for India in the fifth minute before captain Harmanpreet Singh struck from his drag flick in the 12th minute.
The second quarter did not yield any goal from either side though India kept on attacking and made several circle penetration.
India, who led 2-0 at half time, had 15 circle penetration as against eight by South Africa at the breather.
In the third quarter, Amit Rohidas was shown a yellow card and India had to play one man short for five minutes.
But once Rohidas came back, India scored a goal in the last minute of the third quarter through Shamsher Singh (45th).
The South Africans did better in the second half as they made more circle penetration than the first 30 minutes. The fourth quarter produced four goals — two from each side.
India’s fourth goal came in the 49th minute from a fine team effort. Off a Raj Kumar Pal pass, Jarmanpreet Singh sent a low cross from near the right side which Akashdeep simply tapped in.
But just a few seconds later, South Africa scored their first goal of the match through Mvimbi Samkelo (49th), who controlled a long scoop from a teammate inside the Indian ‘D’ and then fired a powerful shot past India custodian PR Sreejesh.
Sukhjeet was suspended for five minutes in the 50th minute after getting a yellow card for a foul and India were one man down. But South Africa failed to capitalise on this.
Sukhjeet returned to score India’s fifth goal in the 58th minute. Akashdeep was involved in the goal as his reverse shot rebounded from the South Africa goalkeeper and Sukhjeet was at the right place to slam the ball home.
South Africa earned a penalty stroke with just one minute left in the match after Sreejesh fouled Cassiem Mustaphaa in the Indian circle. Mustaphaa himself stepped up and scored from the spot as the Birsa Munda Stadium saw India win for the final time in this World Cup.
“We have not thought that we will finish like this (at joint ninth). But we have not lost a single match in this World Cup (lost to New Zealand in a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw). Except for the third and fourth quarters (when India conceded a goal each) against New Zealand, we have played well,” captain Harmanpreet Singh said.
“We could have done better in those two quarters against New Zealand. We created a lot of opportunities (to score) and we also defended well.”
Harmanpreet said it was a “good learning” for him.
“I will keep more focus and improve in future. Whatever weakness we have found out in this tournament we will try to fix before the next major tournament. There will be rest for 9-12 days and then we have to be at the national camp.”
In the earlier matches of the day, Argentina thrashed Wales 6-0 to share the ninth spot with India, while Malaysia beat Japan 3-2 to end their campaign at joint 13th along with France, who emerged 4-2 winners over Chile.
Wales and South Africa finished at joint 11th while Japan and Chile took the joint last (joint 15th) position.
India had finished ninth in 1998 and 2014 also. They had finished 10th in 1990 and 2002, 11th in 2006 and 12th in 1986.