New Delhi: Pakistan held their nerves to claim the 9th position at the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup with a 4-2 victory over India in penalty shootout after the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation period of 70 minutes here at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Saturday.
India's Imran Khan and Satbir Singh failed to beat Pakistan goalkeeper and Man-of-the-Match Mazhar Abbas in the one-on-one shootout, which gave visitors the chance to seal victory that No. 9 Mohammad Dilber achieved calmly. Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Tousiq and Mohammad Umar Bhutta were the other scorers for Pakistan, while Mohammad Rizwan Jr missed. Gurjinder Singh and Talwinder Singh scored for India in the shootout.
Earlier, Pakistan went into the lead in the 7th minute itself through No. 10 Rizwan Ali, when his field goal stunned a 6000-strong crowd. The visitors managed to hold onto their thin lead until the 66th minute when India earned a penalty corner and Gurjinder found the equaliser that invited a loud cheer from the crowd. However, none of the team could find a winner in the last four minutes, sending the match into a shootout.
But as coach Gregg Clark admitted, it was India's "worst performance in the World Cup" with the team making elementary mistakes of not trapping the ball properly. The team's dribbling skills were very poor while forwards Mandeep Singh and Satbir Singh were guilty of squandering a number of opportunities.
"Our defence, circle penetration and trapping was weak. We didn't execute our plans and lacked strategy," a disappointed Clark admitted, putting a question mark over his and the team's preparedness for the last match of their campaign.
India defender Gurjinder may have drew India level, but he made a number of bad passes that could have cost India more goals. The midfield of Harjeet Singh and captain Manpreet Singh couldn't exhibit any coordination with the forward line that either failed to receive the ball cleanly or was easily checked by Pakistani defence.
Pakistan were exceptional in their man-to-man marking that cramped India for space inside their 25-yard line. Whenever India looked to be making a promising raid, lack of understanding between the forward line, which clearly missed Ramandeep Singh who was ruled out due to a shoulder injury, made a hash of it.
The defeat saw India finish a rung lower than their 9th-place finish in the last edition of the tournament and left them with a lot of introspection to do. Also under the scanner will be coach Gregg Clark and his support staff as their contract ran until this World Cup.
The penultimate day of the competition also saw some other positions being decided with Argentina finishing 11th, South Africa 12th, Spain 13th, England 14th, Egypt 15th and Canada 16th.