Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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Posted at: Dec 7, 2018, 2:18 AM; last updated: Dec 7, 2018, 2:18 AM (IST)THE TRIBUNE @ HOCKEY WORLD CUP

French lesson for Argentina

World No. 20 France win 5-3 to enter knockouts; Spain draw with NZ, eliminated
French lesson for Argentina
France’s Aristide Coisne celebrates with teammates after scoring against Argentina. AFP

Indervir Grewalin Bhubaneswar

FRANCE  announced their surprising entry onto the knockout stage of the World Cup with their biggest win. France shed the disappointments of their last two matches, which they deserved to win. They shook off the pressure of the big stage and the tag of underdogs. Once all the shackles were broken, world No. 20 France tip-toed their way to the most stunning victory of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

An electric and brave French team shocked world No. 2 and reigning Olympics champions Argentina 5-3 to finish second in a pool also including Spain and New Zealand. The Argentina that showed up today did not represent their big tags. They were complacent, just like they had been in the opener against Spain. This time they were 0-3 down within 26 minutes and then trailed 1-4 at halftime.

Goals from Hugo Genestet (18th minute), captain Victor Charlet (23rd) and Aristide Coisne (26th) woke up Argentina, who got one back in the 28th minute through Lucas Martinez. Confirmed the top spot in the pool no matter what the result, Argentina didn’t look too bothered. Martinez’s strike gave them the reassurance that the goals would come. But before they could build on the goal, Gaspard Baumgarten made it 4-1 in the last minute of the second quarter. With their reputation on the line, Argentina stepped up. So did their go-to man, Gonzalo Peillat, who had not been too effective so far in the match. But the 26-year-old then made sure that Argentina didn’t waste the penalty corner opportunities they got with two fierce strikes past the hapless Arthur Thieffry. The first (44th) went low past the goalkeeper’s right pad, the second (48th) flew by Thieffry’s shoulder.

With 12 minutes to go, the deficit was one, and French were feeling the heat. But Francois Goyet gave the cushion that the French needed to start playing brave hockey again. They held off the World Cup bronze medallists from four years back, also keeping their unbeaten record in World Cup against Argentina, having won their previous encounters in 1971 and 1990.

France, who are back in the World Cup after 28 years, are seeking to improve upon their seventh-place finish in both previous appearances. Victories in their first two league matches secured Argentina a direct place in the quarterfinals, while France and New Zealand will play crossover games. Both France and New Zealand finished with four points, but France had a superior goal difference.

The French victory knocked out former silver medallists Spain, who earlier in the day squandered a two-goal lead to be held 2-2 by New Zealand.

“It is unbelievable, we knew we could do this,” said France’s Gaspard Baumgarten. “We knew we had the ability, but our performance in the previous two games was slightly complicated. We got over our frustration of the earlier pool matches and went out to play our free-flowing game,” he said. 

PAKISTAN CAPTAIN OUT WITH INJURY 

Pakistan’s team were dealt a double blow ahead of their last preliminary league match against the Netherlands. Their captain, Muhammad Rizwan, was ruled out of the tournament with a fractured finger, while the international hockey federation (FIH) suspended Ammad Butt for one match. Pakistan manager Hasan Sardar said that the captain was sidelined due to an injury suffered in their last outing, against Malaysia. Butt was suspended for an incident in the 40th minute of the game against Malaysia. Pakistan have appealed against the FIH decision. The Appeal Jury will convene on Saturday.

Today’s matches 
Australia vs China, 5pm 
Ireland vs England, 7pm
Live on Star Sports 

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