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Sports


France create shock waves defeat Argentina; New Zealand draw with Spain in Hockey World Cup

France create shock waves defeat Argentina; New Zealand draw with Spain in Hockey World Cup

Bhubaneswar, Dec 6 (UNI) France, the lowest ranked team competing at the Odisha

Hockey Men’s World Cup, stunned the hockey world on Day Nine, defeating Olympic

champions Argentina to seal a second-place finish in Pool A just behind the Pan

American giants.

A 5-3 victory for France against Los Leones was undisputedly the biggest shock of

the competition so far, upsetting the FIH Hero World Rankings both in terms of the

result and the effect on the final standings in the pool, with the European side finishing

above higher-ranked New Zealand on goal difference and eliminating neighbours Spain

from the competition.

Spain started the day two points behind opponents New Zealand but established a

commanding 2-0 lead going into half time. Albert Beltran’s backhand shot flew into the

roof of the New Zealand goal after just nine minutes, with the advantage being doubled

by a close-range effort from Alvaro Iglesias two minutes before the end of the second

quarter.

New Zealand had a mountain to climb, but they proved worthy of the challenge.

Following a scoreless third quarter, Hayden Phillips produced a moment of magic

to drag his team back into the game, smashing into the top comer with nine minutes

remaining.

Sensing the come-back was on, Black Sticks Head Coach Darren Smith replaced his

goalkeeper with an outfield player to increase the pressure on the Europeans. It works

wonders, with Kane Russell scoring a low penalty corner drag-flick to move New Zealand

up to second in the pool.

“It’s a pretty good feeling in the end, but we probably didn’t control the game too well,”

said goal-scorer Kane Russell. “We were struggling to create opportunities and their defence

was really sound. The goal we scored and then taking our goalie off gave us a little bit of

momentum.”

For Spain, the draw against the Black Sticks moved them temporarily into third in the table,

a point ahead of France, who needed to get a result against Olympic champions and Pool A

winners Argentina if they were to progress into the knockout stages.

A win for France was enough for a second-place finish, but with an 18-place difference in

the World Rankings, it was always going to be a big ask.

However, the crowd at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium were in for a treat as the lowest ranked

team in the competition produced something verging on the unbelievable.

France stormed into a stormed into a 4-1 half time lead against their illustrious opponents,

with Hugo Genestet, Victor Charlet, Aristide Coisne and Gaspard Baumgarten on target for

the Europeans, with Lucas Martinez scoring for Los Leones. It was a fantasy half-time

score-line for France, putting them within touching distance of a remarkable second place

finish in the pool and would subsequently eliminate Spain from the competition.

Although the lead held by France was a commanding one, Argentina have proven many

times down the years that they are capable of coming back from unlikely positions. Gonzalo

Peillat’s low penalty corner just before the end of the third quarter gave the South Americans

hope, setting up a very exciting final quarter.

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