The Indian Junior Men’s Hockey Team reigned supreme as they beat Pakistan by 2-1 in a thrilling final of the Men’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 in Salalah, Oman.
Early goals by Angad Bir Singh (12th min) and Araijeet Singh Hundal (20th min) ensured India remained in command of the game, while some outstanding saves by goalkeeper Shashikumar Mohith Honnenahalli kept India in the lead throughout the match.
With this victory, India created a new record for winning the maximum number of titles at the Men’s Junior Asia Cup. The team had previously won the title in 2004, 2008 and 2015, while Pakistan has won the tournament in 1988, 1992, 1996.
Congratulating the team, PM Modi said, “Heartiest congratulations to our Junior Men’s Hockey Team for their splendid victory at the Men’s Junior Asia Cup. Their triumph reflects the burgeoning talent and determination that our youth hold. They have made India very proud”.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur while congratulating the team said, “India Reigns Supreme! Team India puts up a dominant performance in the final to win the Junior Men’s Hockey. Defending Champions asserted their dominance with a fantastic victory against Pakistan (2-1), remaining undefeated throughout the tournament”.
He further said that “this incredible feat is a testament to the talent & hard work of the 18 #KheloIndia Athletes (KIAs) who honed their skills at SAI NCoE Bengaluru. They have truly raised the bar & demonstrated the rising prowess and level of competition at the Khelo Games. A proud moment for Indian hockey indeed!”
Recognising the team’s effort and the unbeaten record in the prestigious tournament, which saw the country qualify for the FIH Men’s Junior World Cup in Malaysia, the Hockey India Executive Board announced a cash award of Rs 2 lakh each for the players and Rs 1 lakh each for support staff.
India went on the offensive from the first minute as they quickly earned a penalty corner through their first move. It was Sudeep Chirmako, who entered from the left wing and found the feet of a Pakistani defender, but the subsequent chance went abegging.
However, in the 12th minute of the opening quarter, India drew first blood when Angad Bir Singh tapped one home from close range after Araijeet Singh Hundal’s shot was deflected off the goalmouth melee.
India made repeated raids into the Pakistan defensive third, but the finish was lacking on most occasions, even as they took a healthy 2-0 lead at half-time.
However, Pakistan pressed hard after the breather, and it was Abdul Basharat who pulled one back in the 37th minute when Abdul Shahid set the former up with a perfect assist.
The final quarter saw Pakistan make a flurry of attacks with as they got at least three penalty corners in quick succession.
In the 50th minute, Indian custodian Mohith Shashikumar made a diving save when Arbaz Ayaz tried to deflect a penalty corner from the left side of the Indian goal.
They got another penalty corner, but Nadeem Khan’s attempt was off-target. The Indians managed to stave off the waves of attack and then did well enough in the final moments to keep their slender one-goal lead intact.
Congratulating the team, Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey said, “The team has shown great promise over the past few months, particularly after their historic win at the Sultan of Johor Cup they have become a dominant force, and I believe this big win will hold them in good stead for the Junior World Cup later this year.
“Hockey India has decided to honour the players for this feat with a befitting cash award. I congratulate the team and the support staff for their efforts,” he said.
India team captain Uttam Singh, who was adjudged the Player of the Match, said, “After the 1-1 draw in the round-robin stage, we were very aware of the areas we had to do well in order to beat Pakistan. It was quite a nervous Final. The team had never played in front of such a big crowd, but I think created early goals helped us stay in control of the game.”
India Hockey team coach CR Kumar said, “It came down to executing our opportunities. Though I feel we could have scored a few more goals, when you are playing a big opponent like Pakistan, there is a lot of pressure. But I am very happy with the way the players controlled their emotions and played to their potential.”