The men’s hockey team of India defeated Korea in shoot-out to win Bronze medal at 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2015 in Ipoh Perak. Later in the evening, New Zealand edged defending champions Australia on shoot-out to clinch the title.
After registering a thumping victory over Australia in their last league match, the confident Indian team defeated 8th-ranked Korea by 4-1 (2-2) in bronze medal match, which was decided with penalty shoot-out. This is Team India’s fifth Bronze Medal in the prestigious tournament as they previously won the Bronze in 2012, 2007, 2006 and 1983. India claimed five Gold medals in 2010, 2009, 1995, 1991 and 1983 in the tournament.
The match started with full force as both the teams locked their horns to finish third position. South Korea earned a penalty corner in the 9th minute, which was thwarted by one of the world’s best goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who anticipated the direction of the ball in mili-seconds. India soon counter-attacked on its opponent and this time midfielder SV Uthappa carried the ball speedily from the right flank and passed towards forward player Nikkin Thimmaiah, who was standing in front of the goal-box. Nikkin reflected the shot and send the ball into the nets to take the early lead of 1-0 in 10th minute.
In 2nd quarter saw a tough battle between two teams as South Korea came back strongly and kept on attacking on Indian defence. In the 20th minute, they managed to earn another penalty corner and this time they were determined to score a goal. PR Sreejesh again managed to prevent the shot but the rebound shot was received by Korea’s Hyosik Cho who hit the ball hard into the goal-box. With this goal, South Korea managed to equalise the score-line 1-1. However, after two minutes, Indians counter-attacked again and this time forward player Satbir Singh carried the ball speedily from the left flank and gave a short pass to midfielder Dharamvir Singh, who returned the ball to Satbir. By this time, Satbir came in front of the goal-box and send the ball into goal-box. India displayed an excellent team-work and took the 2-1 lead. After receiving the jolt, South Korea attacked again and managed to earn three back-to-back penalty corners in 29th minute. India thwarted Korea’s two attempts but Hyunwoo Nam converted the third attempt and equalise the score-card by 2-2 by the end of second quarter.
In the 3rd quarter, both the teams came on field with better strategies and gave a tough fight to each other. Both the teams tussled for the ball possession and continuously attacked on their opponent’s half. But both the defence line-up played extra-ordinary and failed their opponent’s attempts. After a hard battle, the quarter went goal-less. In the 4th quarter of the match also saw close-fought battles between the players from both sides. Both the teams gave their level best to score the winning goal but they lacked the finishing touch and the match went to penalty shoot-out.
The world-class goal-keeper PR Sreejesh showed his mettle again and thwarted two shoot-out attempts of South Korea to become the real hero of the match. He failed the attempts of Korea’s Kihoon Kim and Juhun Kim to help his team. For India, Akashdeep Singh, captain Sardar Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Birendra Lakra out-foxed Korean goalie Jaehyeon Kim and hit successful goals to register a remarkable 4-1 (2-2) victory over higher-ranked Korea. With this win, India finished third and clinched Bronze Medal after 2012.
For Sreejesh heroic performance, he was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match.
India’s Dharamvir Singh earned his 100th international cap during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2015, when he came out on the turf against Canada in league stage. Congratulating on his celebratory achievement, Hockey India’s Secretary General Md. Mushtaque Ahmad said, “Hockey India is extremely delighted for Dharmvir Singh’s achievement of 100 international matches. The midfielder has been an integral part of Indian team and always gives his best performance in matches of all levels. His journey from a young talent in the Junior National Team to an experienced Senior member, has seen many successes where he has played a vital role for the team’s midfield. Hockey India takes utmost pride in congratulating Dharamvir on his accomplishment of 100 International Caps. We wish him all the best for the upcoming tournaments and hope to see him bringing more achievements for Team India.”
Playing as midfielder, the 24-year-old Dharamvir Singh is one of the key players in the national team. Hailing from Ropar (Punjab), Dharamvir is a product of Chandigarh Hockey Academy. He has participated in all international tournaments since his debut in 2009. In 2014, he participated in the Hero Hockey World League Final 2014, FIH Hockey World Cup 2014, 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, 17th Asian Games in Incheon and Hero Men’s Champions Trophy 2014.