Vice-captain Sanjay scored a hat-trick but it was not enough as underdog France thrashed defending champions India 5-4 in their opening Pool B match of the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup on Wednesday. Captain Timothy Clement (1st, 23rd and 32nd) scored a hat-trick, while Benjamin Markey (7th) and Corentin Cellier (48th) scored for World No. 26 France. Sanjay (15th, 57th, 58th) converted three penalty corners for India while Uttam Singh (10th) scored the second goal for the hosts.
France stunned India in the first minute of the match when a lazy defense from the hosts was caught by Clement. The brave Frenchman punched above his own weight and continued to attack the Indian defence, resulting in a second goal through a field strike from Markey.
Down 0-2, a stunned India responded back within three minutes and pulled back a goal with Uttam’s field strike. Excited, the defending champions kept up the pressure with a flurry of attacks but the French defense stood to thwart them.
India equalized on the stroke of the first quarter from a penalty corner converted by Sanjay. Minutes into the second quarter, India earned their third penalty corner but Uttam Singh was far from the target.
France once again took the lead in the 23rd minute when captain Clement scored from a penalty corner. Excited, the French continued to attack and earned some penalty corners but the Indian defense remained strong.
Two minutes before half time, India secured their fourth penalty corner, but the French goalkeeper made a brilliant save to deny the hosts a two-three chase.
Two minutes into the third quarter, France extended their lead when they received three consecutive penalty corners, the last of which was converted by captain Clement to take a 4–2 lead. India got another penalty corner in the 38th minute but missed the opportunity.
In the 48th minute, France turned the scoreline in their favor 5–2 when Cellier scored from a field effort.
Three goals behind, the Indians tried to twist the script and attack France’s defense in numbers in the process.
Sanjay scored two more goals in the 57th and 58th minutes via two more penalty corners to reduce the score to 4-5, but failed to stop the Frenchman from registering his first upset of the tournament.
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