India completely outplayed South Africa in the final of the FIH Series Finals to seal a memorable 5-1 win at the Kalinga Stadium in what was Graham Reid's first event as India coach. India have still not sealed an Olympic berth but have boosted their chances drastically by winning the tournament
In front of their home fans, India wanted to live up to their supremacy in the FIH World Rankings. It did not take them very long to take the lead with a goal from Varun Kumar from a penalty corner. The Asian team was playing mostly in South Africa’s half during the first quarter and doubled their lead, with another penalty corner; this time from Harmanpreet Singh.
South Africa spared no effort to come back into the match but they struggled to create good chances. And it was India who added another goal to their tally with a penalty stroke from Harmanpreet Singh, therefore becoming the joint top goalscorer of the tournament with Russia’s Semen Matkovskiy (6 goals each) at that moment. Half-time came with a solid 3-0 lead for Graham Reid’s side.
At the start of the second half, South Africa missed a good opportunity which, if converted, would have given hope and confidence to the African champions. Instead of that, India took a 4 goals advantage through Vivek Prasad who converted from short distance as a result of an offering from Simranjeet Singh after brilliant dribbling in the circle.
South Africa were determined to find the target and they were a step away from doing so on two consecutive attempts from Keenan Horne and Richard Pautz towards the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter of this tournament saw the home team continue attacking and Varun Kumar scored his second penalty corner. He too was taking his goal tally in this event to six, therefore joining Harmanpreet Singh – later chosen Man of the Match - and Semen Matkovskiy at the top of the goalscorer standings. Meanwhile, the African champions also found the target as Richard Pautz was in the right place to hit the ball over the goal-line from a penalty corner.
India’s Head Coach Graham Reid: “It was a really interesting tournament. There are always things which we can improve. I think that the areas that we worked on in the last 2-3 months, we’ll be continuing. The boys will now have a couple of weeks off, spend time with their families and recharge their batteries. Then we have a really hard month in July and we go to the Olympic Games’ test event in Tokyo in August. It will be a busy period.”
South Africa’s Head Coach Garreth Ewing: “First, we’ll take from this tournament a step to the next round. It was really good for us to spend some time together as a team. The first couple of games were tough but we progressed nicely, then we found our rhythm and we were very competitive and really happy to play against India in the final. We lost to a very good team tonight.”
Odisha Best Junior Player: Vivek Prasad (IND)
Odisha Mining Corporation Best Goalkeeper: Jonathan Klages (USA)
Hero Top Scorer(s): Varun Kumar (IND), Semen Matkovskiy (RUS), Harmanpreet Singh (IND)
Odisha Best Player:Manpreet Singh (IND)
Hockey India Best Team Goal Celebration: Mexico
Hockey India Fan Choice:Akashdeep Singh (IND)
Hockey India Fair Play: India
Hockey India Maximum Team Goals: India
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