FIH Series Finals: India seals semis spot with 10-0 victory over Uzbekistan

Akashdeep Singh scored a hat-trick as India trounced Uzbekistan 10-0 in its final Pool A match to reach the semifinals of the FIH Hockey Series Finals at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar.

Akashdeep Singh scored a hat-trick in India's 10-0 win.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

It was expected to be a cakewalk and India duly made it one, thrashing minnow Uzbekistan 10-0 in its final Pool B game of the Hockey Series Finals here on Monday. The host finished firmly on top of its pool with the result and would now await the winner of the cross-over game between Japan and Poland in the semifinal.

It was an inconsequential game but despite the huge gap in rankings and stature – India is fifth while the Uzbeks 43rd – the host started slowly, which meant it scored only three goals in the first 15 minutes, all through penalty corners. But it also wasted four of them, and a handful of open chances.

The second quarter was better, India finally started getting its basics in place and slammed in four more. Through the first 30 minutes, the ball entered the Indian circle once, when it sped away past a bored PR Sreejesh, who took turns with Krishan Pathak under the bar every quarter but had little to do except stroll inside the circle to stay alert.

READ | India vs Uzbekistan - As it happened

The second half was more of the same, a sedate third quarter and decent fourth one but even though it mattered not, the number of goals scored would not have made coach Graham Reid happy. More disappointing was the completely lackadaisical manner in which the Indians went about their jobs. There was little co-ordination, there were glaring basic errors in passing and trapping and the forwards were more often than not out of position.

The Uzbeks, predictably, were all about defence but despite that, left enough gaps for India to walk through and score. The defence had little to do for India and the midfield was almost up into the Uzbek third of field but the sharpness was just not there.

It would be easy to defend the performance as dependent on the opposition but the best sides stay within their structure and plan regardless of everything. Getting India in that zone would be Reid’s challenge, more so given that the team would now have a three-day break before its next game.

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Earlier, USA booked a direct ticket to the semifinals despite a 2-2 draw with Japan in Pool B by finishing on top of the pool. Tied on points, USA edged ahead of the Asian Games champion on goal difference and can now wait out the cross-over game between South Africa and Russia to find its semifinal opponent.

USA went ahead twice through the game but Japan managed to fight back, getting the equaliser a minute from time to secure a point. The other Pool B match saw South Africa, second-highest ranked here but struggling for form, finally open its account with an easy 6-0 win against Mexico.

Results: Pool A: India 10 (Akashdeep Singh 3, Mandeep Singh 2, Varun Kumar 2, Nilakanta Sharma, Amit Rohidas, Gursahibjit Singh) bt Uzbekistan 0; Pool B: USA 2 (Deegan Huisman 2) drew with Japan 2 (Kenta Tanaka, Suguru Hoshi); South Africa 6 (Austin Smith, Keenan Horne, Richard Pautz, Matthew De Sousa, Nicholas Spooner, Nqobile Ntuli) bt Mexico 0.