Harpal Singh Bedi / Bhubaneswar

Defending champion India overwhelmed Poland 8-2 to set up a quarter-final clash with runners up Belgium who beat Chile 3-0 to top pool A in the Junior Hockey World Cup at Kalinga Stadium here on Saturday.

In other matches, France drubbed Canada 11-1 to top the pool B and will face Malaysia in another quarter-final. The Asian team beat piped South Africa 4-3 

 while in pool D Pakistan kept their hopes alive for the quarter-final berth beating Egypt 3-1

India overcame a determined  Poland to finish second in pool B and book their place in the final eight. Despite a scoreline of 8-2, this wasn’t an easy game for the hosts and the number of yellow cards in the second half may concern Head Coach Graham Reid. 

For the winners who led 3-0 at halftime, the goal scorers were Sanjay, Arajeet Singh Hundal, Sudeep (two each) Uttam Singh, and Shardanand Tiwari (one each).  Fpr Poland  Rutkowski and Pawlak scored a goal each

In a fast-paced game, Sanjay gave the hosts lead in the 4th minute and two minutes later Arajeet made it 2-0, Sudeep scored the third goal in the 24th minute. In the second half Uttam Singh (34th minute) Tiwari (38th)  Sudeep (40th) Sanjay 5(58th ) and Arajeet (6oth ) scored to complete the tally.  The Polish side scored two goals in the 50th and 54th minute to deprive India of finishing the match with a clean sheet.

Player of the Match Sudeep Chirmako said: “This was an important match for us because we had lost one match but we executed well today. Regarding the quarter-finals [against Belgium], it is very important as it is elimination. But we have a plan and we will try to execute it.”

Three goals for Ali Rizwan kept Pakistan’s hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals alive as they beat Egypt 3-1 in the opening match of the day. The penalty corner specialist hit his stride in the 19th minute and then fired in two more in the third and fourth quarter to give Pakistan their first win of the competition. Egypt rallied with a fine goal from Hussein Awad, but the Asian team pressed on to take the all-important points. 

With Germany already qualified from Pool D, Pakistan face Argentina, with both teams needing a win to qualify for the final eight.

Pakistan’s Moin Shakeel, who was Player of the Match, was quick to point out the benefits of a good penalty corner routine. “Our coaches had asked us to take the short corners and we have the plus point in the short corners. 

“We did it in the second half, so we got opportunities and we scored the goals. Now we are focusing on our next game, targeting that we have to win it to qualify for the quarter-finals. This is our opportunity to get goal-scoring and get the ball possession. We will play like this again against Argentina.”

France continued their impressive showing with an 11-1 win over Canada. The French, won three from three to secure a place in the quarter-finals. In this performance, they took the game to Canada, playing a high tempo game which only slipped slightly in the third quarter, when Canada was able to pounce on some sloppy play to score through Sean Davis.

Speaking after the match, Player of the Match Antonin Igau said: “We played very well throughout the pool stage. So, we are very happy. Clinching the top spot of the pool is really hard, especially with India in the same pool. We’re very proud of this performance. Winning against India is always amazing, and even more so in India. So, for sure, this has given us confidence for the rest of the tournament.”

Malaysia became the second Asian team to secure a place in the last eight after a nail-biting encounter with South Africa. Malaysia took the lead in the 29th minute through Muhammad Khalid only to see South Africa bounce back just after half-time through captain Guy Morgan. 

The Asian side took the lead again in the 41st minute only to see two quick goals from Jared Campbell give the lead to the African contenders. Three yellow cards in the final quarter indicate the fiercely competitive nature of this game. Eventually, hero of the day for Malaysia was captain Akhimullah Anuar who put away a penalty corner to snatch the lead and put his team into the quarter-finals.

Player of the match was Malaysia’s Kamarulzaman Kamaruddin. He said: “I’m very happy. My teammates and my coaches gave 100 percent and give the spirit of the team. We fought all together. We fought for every ball, for everything in this match and so we managed to win.

Belgium faced little difficulty in putting it across Chile to seal a top finish in Pool A . Lucas Putters put the winner ahead with a well-taken goal in the third minute. Player of the Match Thibeau Stockbroekx doubled the lead just before half-time and Nelson Onana sealed it with a third in the 48th minute.

Belgium thus finished top of Pool A, ahead of Malaysia on goal difference, and will meet India in the quarter-finals. 

 “We came here for the first spot in the pool. It was difficult but I think we did the right things. Today was a hard game for us. Yesterday also. Really good defending from our opponents, so it’s difficult to score goals but we did manage. It’s always nice to play India here. I think it will be a really good opportunity for us to show our best level and see where we’re at.” said Belgium’s Thibeau Stockbroekx