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Jr Hockey World Cup: Germany, Argentina, France reach last-four stage

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Bhubaneswar, Dec 1 (IANS) Six-time champions Germany rescued victory from the jaws of defeat, scoring a dramatic late equaliser against Spain before edging them out in shoot-out in the first quarter-final of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup here on Wednesday.

Germany came back to hold Spain 3-3 in 60-minutes of regulation time and then won the shoot-out 3-1 to seal a place in the semi-finals against hosts India, who defeated Belgium 1-0.

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Germany opened the scoring in the fifth minute thanks to Christopher Kutter’s penalty stroke, with Spain’s Gerard Clapes restoring parity six minutes later with a penalty corner. Chances for Germany came and went before Spain’s Eduard de Ignacio-Simo netted a magnificent solo goal with just over one minute remaining. Just when it seemed that Germany’s competition was going to come to an end, Masi Phandt rattled home a penalty corner before Valentin Altenburg’s team triumphed 3-1 in the shoot-out to break Spanish hearts.

“It was really amazing,” said Germany goalkeeper Jean Danneburg, who came off the bench to produce a game winning performance in the shoot-out, earning him the Player of the Match award. “The feeling of catching the balls was so awesome. I’m so happy and proud of my team, that they scored the penalties. For the shoot-outs, I was very nervous this time. But I kept my focus on the important things. It’s a lot of fun with this team!”

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The second match of the day was also full of drama, with Argentina claiming a stunning late victory (2-1) over a Netherlands team that many considered to be amongst the frontrunners for the title. The two teams traded goals within a minute of each other in the second quarter, with Joaquin Kruger touching home a crash-ball for Argentina before 17-year-old Dutchman Miles Bukkens netted his 12th goal of the competition with an expertly converted penalty corner.

The Dutch looked the more likely scorers in the final stages, but it was Argentina who emerged triumphant when Franco Agostini’s cross from the left took a huge deflection from a Netherlands stick and flew into the goal. The Europeans rallied hard, but Argentina’s outstanding defensive line held firm to keep alive their hopes of adding a second Junior World Cup title to the one claimed in 2005.

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“It was a very hard match and we’re very happy with this win,” said Argentina’s Tadeo Marcucci, who was named Player of the Match.

“I also would like to congratulate the Netherlands, who are a great team. Now, we have to focus on the next match and analyse our opponent in the semi-final. We have confidence in ourselves, with the staff examining all our games,” he was quoted as saying by FIH in a release.

France captain Timothee Clement scored a hat-trick of penalty corners to help his team claim a comfortable 4-0 triumph over Malaysia and secure a place in the competition semi-finals for only the second time in their history. Clement netted superb drag-flicks in the 14th and 24th minute respectively to open a 2-0 lead for the Europeans, before Timothee’s younger brother Mathis Clement scored a spectacular volley from another penalty corner shortly after half-time. France – the beaten finalists in the 2013 Junior World Cup at New Delhi – added gloss on a dominant performance when the elder Clement completed his treble in the final minute of the match with another penalty corner.

“It feels amazing, being in the semi-finals of the World Cup is simply fantastic,” said Player of the Match Timothee Clement after the game, before looking ahead to his team’s upcoming semi-final opponents. “Argentina is a very good team so now we will focus on this match. We will analyse this team to see how they play.”

–IANS

bsk/cs

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