India’s maiden entry into Hockey Champions Trophy final

London, June 17 (IANS) India reached the final of the Hockey Champions Trophy for the first time after Britain and Belgium played a dramatic 3-3 draw to finish below the Asian Games champions at the completion of the round-robin stage here.

In the summit clash on Friday, India will meet world champions Australia, who defeated them 4-2 in their last league match of the six-nation tournament on Thursday.

India got seven points with two wins, two losses and a draw. Germany and Britain ended with six points each and will clash for the bronze medal. Belgium had five points while South Korea bagged three points. Australia totalled 13 points with four wins and a draw.

India had won only one medal in the 36 editions of the Champions Trophy – a bronze in 1982.

But they are set to better that record, thanks to Belgium and Britain, who played out a dramatic 3-3 draw in the final match of the pool phase, a result which helped neither team.

Belgium took less than 40 seconds to take the lead against the home favourites, with Thomas Briels guiding a cross into the roof of George Pinner’s net.

The home team captain Barry Middleton levelled with a penalty corner deflection five minutes before half time.

Belgium’s Loick Luypaert gave his side a 3-1 lead with a brace of penalty corner drag-flicks either side of the break, putting the Red Lions within one goal of sealing their own place in the competition final.

However, Britain’s decision to replace their goalkeeper with an outfield player with six minutes remaining proved significant, with David Ames and veteran Middleton tying the match as the Belgians lost their discipline.

In the Australia-India clash, much of the match was closely contested although it were the Australians who went into half time with a 2-0 lead thanks to strikes from Trent Mitton and the day’s captain, Aran Zalewski.

The Kookaburras added a third through Flynn Ogilvie before India captain V.R. Raghunath pulled a goal back with a trademark penalty corner.

Australia restored the two goal advantage seconds later when Tristan White continued his remarkable tournament by scoring his third goal in three games.

A Mandeep Singh strike early in the fourth quarter gave India genuine hope. And they could have rescued the game were it not for Australian shot-stopper Tyler Lovell who made numerous saves.

In the other match match, Constantin Staib and Oskar Deecke scored twice each as Olympic champions Germany produced superb play to overpower South Korea 7-0.

The result was the title holders Germany’s biggest ever victory at a Champions Trophy, surpassing their 6-1 win over Spain in Karachi way back in 1981.

Staib started and finished the scoring with field goals. Tom Grambusch, Deecke (2), Timm Herzbruch and Marco Miltkau all scored in between as Die Honamas produced their best performance of the competition.

–IANS

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