Boys played their hearts out: Nobbs
India hockey coach hails team's defence after hard-fought 1-0 win over Belgium in Champions Trophy quarters; India face Australia & Pakistan meet Holland in semi-finals
India marched into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy with a tough 1-0 win over Belgium 1-0 in yesterday’s quarter-final encounter. India, a bronze medallist at the 1982 event at Amstelveen, remained in reckoning for a place in their first Trophy final, thanks to a 13th-minute field goal from Nithin Thimmaiah. Thimmaiah slammed home after receiving a perfect pass from skipper Sardar Singh, who played his 150th match for the country.
India’s victory came despite the Belgians controlling most of the match but not being able to convert their numerous opportunities. Despite the goal, Belgium slowly gained momentum as the half went on and gave India some worrisome moments late in the half with two good penalty corner chances. But India escaped the half with the slim lead.
In the second half, it was India’s turn to take charge but they simply couldn’t convert their chances as the tension built on with only one goal separating the teams. Belgium had a handful of late penalty corners while India counter-attacked. But neither team managed to put a dent in the scoreboard as Thimmaiah’s goal stood as the lone marker in the critical match.
Belgium failed to convert six penalty corners while India missed their lone opportunity in the game. India coach Michael Nobbs praising his team’s defence. “It’s an amazing feeling, they have worked really hard. I didn’t think we played that well today but our defence was amazing,” Nobbs said. “It’s something I haven’t seen from an Indian defence in years, but I thought they played their hearts out,” he added.
Meanwhile, India’s arch rivals Pakistan also made it to the semis with an impressive come-from-behind 2-1 win over World No 1 Germany. Pakistan’s win was largely due to Shakeel Abbasi, who dominated and scored both of his team’s goals. Pakistan, just one win away from their first Champions Trophy final since 1998, will once against be the underdogs when they take on the Netherlands in Saturday’s semi-final.
Abbasi said he believed his team could continue to do well in the tournament. “If we have confidence and play hard and have dedication, we have the potential to win against every team,” he said. The Netherlands made it to the last four with a 2-0 win over New Zealand 2-0. The Dutch were pleased to progress to the last four, yet coach Paul van Ass said he didn’t feel his team played their best.
“It wasn’t the best game from us here, but maybe this weekend we will see a lot of nice matches,” he said. In the fourth quarter-final Australia retained their hopes of a fifth straight title beating England 2-0 with a goal each from Jamie Dwyer and Chris Ciriello. “We haven’t let a goal in in three games so defensively we are doing well. It’s just about creating opportunities up the front,” Dwyer said.