A convincing start in a campaign as big as the World Cup is so critical for any team let alone India. And the Harmanpreet Singh-captained Indian outfit were determination-personified when they squared up against Spain at the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela. Up against a European side to whom they lost 2-3 and drew 2-2 in regulation in the 2022-23 Pro League a couple of months back, Indian seemed to have done their homework for the marquee clash.
It was the Blueshirts that threw the early punches at Spain and finally landed one when local lad Amit Rohidas banged home past the defences of Spanish goalkeeper Mario Garin. It was a statistically-important goal for India – 200th goal for India in the World Cup. The first-quarter goal pumped up the Indians even as they were egged on by a packed home crowd. India instilled discipline in deep defence, midfield and upfront and did not allow Spain to mount a comeback.
India only tightened their grip over the match when Hardik Singh darted in from the left and took a shot that took a deflectin off a Spanish defender and rolled in. The 8th ranked Spain needed the likes of Marc Miralles, Alvaro Iglesias and Enrique Gonzalez needed to come to the party but the dogged Indians halted them in their tracks at most times. India allowed Spain to have a numerical advantage in the final quarter when striker Abhishek served a ten-minute yellow card suspension but credit to the Indians, they did not allow the Redsticks to exploit the situation.
The three points are significant for India in a tricky Pool D where Pro League tabletoppers England appear to be in rollicking form, slamming five times past Wales to top Pool D ahead of the India-Englan mouth-watering clash on Sunday. A win over England would seal India’s quarterfinal spot without much stress without the need to play Wales with permutations and combinations riding over that game.