Malaysia also exited the tournament after defeat.
The first day of crossovers at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 produced drama aplenty as Spain and New Zealand sealed their quarter-final berths with shoot-out wins, in the sudden death stage, against Malaysia and India respectively. Spain will now take on Australia in the quarter-finals, while New Zealand will face Belgium, with both matches to be played in Bhubaneswar. Malaysia and India head into the 9-16 classification matches, which will take place in Rourkela.
Match 1: Malaysia vs Spain 2-2 (shoot-out: 3-4)
Malaysia were under pressure early in the first quarter and were lucky to go into the 2nd quarter at level footing, having survived a couple of big chances, particularly when Enrique Gonzalez hit the crossbar from a couple of metres out. Malaysia started to get on the front foot a bit more in the second quarter but neither team was able to carve out any high-quality scoring opportunity in the 15 minutes, and as the half-time whistle blew, the teams remained tied on 0-0.
The second half burst into action as Malaysia showed why they are such a big threat on the attack as a long pass from inside his own half, by Faiz Jali, found form-man Faizal Saari who received the ball in his stride just outside the Spanish circle and unleashed a powerful shot on the reverse to beat Adrian Rafi. The goal sprung Spain into action and they committed more players to the attack.
Spain equalised through a Marc Miralles penalty stroke in the 41st minute and snatched the lead a minute later as a mesmerising run by Pere Amat led to a cross that was turned into an empty goal by Gispert at the far post, leaving Malaysia to chase the game in the final quarter.
The final quarter started with Malaysia thinking they had equalised through Amirul Azahar inside 20 seconds, but Spain reviewed and a back stick in the build-up to the goal reversed the goal. Three minutes later though Malaysia did score through Shello Silverius and there was no doubt about the validity of the goal this time, setting up an exciting final 10 minutes.
Spain earned a flurry of penalty corners over the final minutes, but their attempted drag flicks were saved each time by a combination of good first rushing and calm keeping, taking the first knockout game of the event into a shoot-out!
The teams could not be separated through the first five attempts in the shoot-out as the game moved to sudden death. Marc Miralles scored his first for Spain and Mario Garin, who was brought on by the red sticks to keep in the shoot-outs, stepped up and saved the Malaysian attempt to earn his team the win and a spot in the quarterfinals!
Marc Miralles was awarded player of the match and said: “Well played to Malaysia as well, we know this is a very tough way to lose a game. Really happy with our team’s performance throughout, coming back from a goal down to get the win and move on is great for us.”
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Match 2: India vs New Zealand 3-3 (Shoot-out: 4-5)
India were dominant in the first quarter in terms of territory and possession but in terms of big chances, the teams were level at one apiece. New Zealand were the first to get a good shot on target, but Sreejesh was quick to step out, make himself big and make the save. Harmanpreet, who scored his first penalty corner goal in the game against Wales, nearly saw his first penalty corner break the goal-line, but a save on the line by Simon Child, kept the scores tied to end the first quarter.
New Zealand had a huge chance to start the second quarter, but the shot attempt by Morrison went narrowly wide and India capitalised soon with a quick counter, that was smashed in from the right by Lalit, who was smartly found on the counter by Shamsher. India added a second goal midway through the second quarter as a Harmanpreet drag flick was saved by the keeper, but the rebound looped up in the air and Sukhjeet was the first to get to it and smash the high volley into an open goal.
The black sticks had their best opportunity to score just before the half as Findlay found Child on the left baseline and his pass across the face of the Indian goal was tapped in by Sam Lane to bring New Zealand back into the game.
Both teams traded a goal each in the third quarter, with India scoring first through a Varun Kumar penalty corner that snuck through the legs of Dixon, but New Zealand pulled back to within one again with Kane Russell beating Sreejesh from a penalty corner of his own, setting up an incredible final quarter of action.
India retreated into the defence to begin the fourth quarter while New Zealand turned up the heat. India conceded a penalty corner in the 50th minute and while the attempted flick from Russell did not make the contact he wanted, the follow up shot by Lane was brilliantly turned in by Findlay, with his back to the goal.
The final 10 minutes were filled with non-stop action as India failed to capitalise on their penalty corner opportunities, while Krishan Pathak was brilliant in stopping New Zealand shots on target, including once in the final second of the game to take the game to a shoot-out.
The shoot-out was a nervous affair all over again with 18 shoot-out attempts required to separate the two sides. Both New Zealand and India had two attempts where a goal would’ve won the game for them, but Findlay and Lane missed for New Zealand, while Harmanpreet and Sukhjeet missed for India.
On the 17th attempt, Sam Lane gave New Zealand the lead and Shamsher, who had missed once earlier, stepped up again, but his attempt was well saved by Hayward, and New Zealand finally won it and went through to the quarter-finals while India went into the 9-16 classification matches.
Sean Findlay was awarded the player of the match and said: “We did it the hard way, coming back from goals down and with the missed opportunities early in the shoot-out as well, but this team has great fighting spirit and we just gave it our all and it’s a great start to the knockout stage hockey.”