Odisha Hockey World Cup: Luck eludes hosts India
India’s wait for its first medal in FIH sponsored tournament continues unabated. In 37 years, India has played host to three World Cups – Mumbai (1981), New Delhi (2010) and Bhubaneswar (2018) – but without ever qualifying for the medal round.
Other than World Cups, India also organized other FIH events, including Champions Trophy (Chennai 1996), Chennai (2005) and Bhubaneswar (2014), and the World Hockey League finals in New Delhi (2014), Raipur (2016) and Bhubaneswar (2017). But the host has never won a gold medal in any of these events.
Intriguingly, none FIH events like Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games, too, have proved unlucky for India as it never won the gold medal on its home soil.
Will India be able to break this jinx?
Next possible opportunity to get an answer would now come in June, 2019, when Bhubaneswar plays hosts to World Super Series, an Olympic qualifier. India needs to secure a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
They say change is the only thing that is permanent. The Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Tournament has thrown up a new medalist – Belgium. As the reigning Olympic silver medalists, it is maiden entry for Belgium in World Cup semis and subsequently in the gold medal match.
Other three semi-finalists had won one or more World Cup medals.
Odisha World Cup earned uniqueness in more than one ways. It had been one of the longest tournaments in the history of the World Cup. Sixteen teams were involved in this 19-day event with just one rest day.
In 34 games decided till the medal round matches saw 148 goals being scored. While Australia trounced debutants China 11-0 for the biggest win, England suffered a humiliating 0-6 defeat at the hands of Belgium in the first semi finals. Alexander Hendrickx, drag flicker from Belgium, had till last day seven goals to his credit.
The biggest disappointment was Spain. It got eliminated in the preliminary pool matches. Seven of the 16 teams ended their pool matches without a win.
Of the four teams that directly qualified for quarter-finals, only Australia cleared the last eight rounds. India, Argentina and Germany were beaten. The finalists – Netherlands and Belgium – came through crossovers.