The Junior World Cup ended in Major Dhyanchand National stadium in much fanfare. It gave expected winner, surprised finalist and a poor show by India.
From the opening game against the Dutch, it was evident that the team was not the same that won the Sultan Johar Cup. Experience wise, Oranges were far behind the Indians on senior level. Only one of their player has graduated. The reason is pretty clear, as it is tough to carve a niche for oneself in Senior level there.
India conceded an early goal. It put undesired pressure for remaining minutes. They came from behind twice in the game but finally lost the plot. In final 20 minutes, the team appeared to be running out of ideas. Midfielders were shooting the ball for glory. An opening game loss made the campaign tougher.
Against the Maples, the same story was repeated. Colts conceded an early goal. Team has to come twice from behind for the win. Juniors could have won by at least 4 more goals but a solitary goal victory put the goal difference to zero. Indians should consider themselves lucky that 2 referrals in the closing minutes went in their favour. On one, they got the PC and eventually converted the goal. On the other, Canadians were denied the right of Penalty corner otherwise situations could have been sour.
Draw with Korea on the dark evening of Delhi blocked Junior’s road to Glory. It was a major setback for Indian Hockey lovers and for 5000 strong cheering crowd inside the stadium. It was a do or die battle against speedy Koreans in the final league game. Team again conceded first goal of the game. Clever play of Manpreet handed India PC in the dying second of first half. Gurjinder converted it and for the first time in the campaign, the team was leading at half time. Soon in the second half, team scored another goal and the tally read 3-1. All was going well but within 2 minutes, Koreans scored twice and 10 men Indian squad (at those moments) left dejected. Crowd went silent. Seungju You rise on the occasion and the drag flicker humiliated the aspiring Indians.
Both classification matches presented a different story. Against Argentina, India took early control and a 2-0 lead. Argentina could not took a single shot on goal in the entire first half. But all the good work was lost. Against Pakistan, team played worst Hockey of the championship. Absence of Ramandeep could have been a reason but weakness in all the departments of Hockey- dribbling, control, plan, circle penetration, calmness of mind, was visible here.
This result meant a lot to think about. Amit Rohitas is no way near his senior Gurus. Gurjinder, the crorepati player of rebel league, was the only silver lining in the role of drag flicker. Ramandeep was questionably quite in the campaign. He returned to form against Argentina but got injured on left shoulder in the process of scoring second goal. The lethal partnership of Mittahpur village Manpreet-Ramandeep-Mandeep was virtually absent. Mandeep was not as lethal as he could have been. He can see goal the gaol scored by Milan Van Baal against Malaysia and learn. He even missed some sitters in game against Korea and Canada. Pradeep Mor is innovative in defence and supply good passes to midfielders but fumbles with stick. Affan Yusuf should have been in Delhi but he was giving trial for Western Railways at Mumbai. Experienced Kothajeet spent more time on bench than on turf. Defence line was callow. On one occasion 2 Koreans not only troubled 6 defenders but also managed to get a shot on goal. Manpreet showed magical hockey, specially in last 10 minutes against Korea. Akashdeep has matured a lot.
Overall, the level of competition has increased a lot. 11 league games were decided by the margin of only one goal. Only 3 draws reflect hunger of boys. Tournament witnessed 2 sensational comebacks which resulted in contrast. Netherland scored 3 goals against Germany for 3-3 but these didn’t proved enough. On the other, France came from 2-4 to won 5-4 in QF. Malaysia was the only flag bearer of Asian Hockey in SF. Oranges virtually annihilated them in 3rd place match. France has invested heavily on Junior ranks and it paid richly as their team shocked every Hockey pundit by reaching the finals. France fought belligerently but last 20 minutes changed everything.
German Goal Keeper Aly was the GK of the championship. He made outstanding save throughout the tournament. His 1 to 1 saves against the Dutch and last minute PC save in the same game will long be remembered. Christopher Ruhr was the man of the championship. He not only was the top scorer but made maximum assists.
It was the sixth title for the Germans with a sweet hat trick. Best match of the tournament was played between Germany and Australia. Goals flowed till the penultimate minute. Germans were the deserving champion. They recovered from initial hiccup against Belgium and beat both the best team of the world, AUS and NED en route to final. Remember, they are the Gold medal winner in previous two Olympics as well. Can the seniors also make hat trick in Rio’16 like their colts?