Hockey World Cup 2018: France's dream comes true in Bhubaneswar

France, which last played in a World Cup nearly three decades ago and never lost to Argentina in its previous two appearances, stunned Olympic champion Argentina in their Hockey World Cup 2018 match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Gaspard Baumgarten celebrates with his team mates after scoring against Argentina.   -  Getty Images

France captain Victor Charlet roared like a lion after scoring stunningly from a penalty corner against Olympic champion Argentina, whose 5-3 loss to the lowest-ranked side in the Hockey World Cup sent shock-waves at the Kalinga Stadium here.

France had created ripples after finishing second in the under-21 World Cup in Delhi five years ago. The team, packed with nine members of the 2013 silver medallist side, perplexed many at the biggest stage on Thursday. It was a dream come true for the World No. 20.

Guided by World and Olympic champion Dutchman Jeroen Delmee, France entered the World Cup as one of the well-prepared sides. It has a target of breaking into the top-10 here before building the side for a prestigious finish in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

 

Delmee had faith in his boys. “I asked the team to play a historical match. They rose above themselves, played their best match. Compliment to the penalty corner defence because it took a long while before (Gonzalo) Peillat started to put his precision,” said Delmee.

The fact that France, which last played in a World Cup nearly three decades ago, never lost to Argentina in its previous two appearances looked more of a statistical coincidence as the Los Leones was not a big force in those times.

Delmee paid tribute to France’s maturity. “You are leading 3-0 or 4-1 and then feel Argentina are coming back, but the team didn't panic. I think that's maybe the biggest compliment and the growth it is making.

“We are trying to get as quickly as possible to spot 10. That's the potential of the team at this moment…If we rise above ourselves, as you saw today, strange things can happen.”

 

Giving responsibility to youngsters was also important. “If you look at our front line, we have one player who is 18 and two guys who are 19…If you are 19, you play a match like this, then you will get better and better. That's what we need to achieve our goals in future.”

Delmee stressed the importance of having a sound system, which the French authorities had put in place.

Charlet gave an idea about his young team’s ambition. “We want to have top quality (hockey) to play the World Cup and Olympics. We have to keep this group for a long time to do big things,” he said.