The birthday boy Nikkin Thimmaiah celebrated with scoring the opening goal in the match, but two goals for Belgium in the last three minutes meant that Belgium finished in 5th place and India 6th. Earlier, Germany defeated Argentina 2-1 to finish 7th.
Speaking after the last match of the tournament, Terry Walsh Coach of the India team said, “I am disappointed with today’s match performance. We gave away careless goals which could have been avoided. Overall, there were quite a few learning for the team from the tournament. This was a high level competition and gave the team confidence to play against anyone. We have come a long way in this tour and by Asian Games we will be in a reasonably good shape. This has been a growth period for the team.”
The first 35 minutes were played at a great pace with two styles of play very much in evidence – the structured build-up of the Red Lions as opposed to the opportunistic quick breaks of India. What was in evidence on both sides was some very tight defending and an unwillingness to let the opposition stay on possession for long.
Both teams created chances, but despite brave diving in the circle from both teams, notably Yousuf Affan for India and Amaury Keusters for Belgium, no-one was able to get the killer touch on the ball and turn opportunities to goals.
The second half started at the same dazzling tempo, with the India team pressing high up the pitch to pressure the Belgium defence, and the Belgium forwards finding space to shoot, but failing to beat PR Sreejesh in the India goal.
Sreejesh was called into action twice more as Belgium began to turn the screws in the second half. Two penalty corners for Belgium were well-defended but for a few minutes India were unable to break out of their half of the pitch.
When they did break out, it was to pile pressure on the Belgium circle and the India team’s persistence paid off when Thimmaiah (59′) celebrated his 24th birthday with a goal that was snatched from a goal-mouth scramble.
It took Belgium eight minutes to find the equaliser through Florent van Aubel (67′) and then Tom Boon (68′) broke Indian hearts when he slotted home the winning goal from a penalty corner.
Marc Lammers, Coach of the Belgium team said, “ Although we won, but the overall performance of the team was just average. India is doing well under the guidance of Terry Welsh. If this continues then India will be back on top again. Earlier they were good in attacking but now they have started defend well too. In today’s match there were lot of speedy counter attacks from them which really surprised me. We came up with a strategy to counter the Indian team with short passes as they are very good in one on one counter. Overall the tournament was a good opportunity for new players to understand international gaming and will help us prepare better for the World Cup.”