Wales hockey team’s World Cup defeat by India ends hopes of qualifying for next round

The men’s team, playing in their first World Cup, lose to the tournament favourites

WALES have finished bottom of their group at the hockey World Cup after being beaten by the hosts in a thrilling encounter.

In a tight contest decided in the final quarter, the debutants were eventually beaten 4-2 by India.

The result leaves Wales dead last in group D and left facing two more games in the next qualification round to determine the 9th-16th placed teams.

The 2023 edition of the tournament was the first time that Wales had appeared on the world stage, qualifying after a thrilling 2-1 win against Ireland back in October 2021.

The side, made up of part-time players and students, were beaten 5-0 in their opening game against rivals England before conceding another five goals in their 5-1 defeat to Spain.

“The key frustration for me is that if we’d played like (that) in all three (pool matches), one of them could’ve gone our way,” said Wales coach Danny Newcombe.

“The key for our next tournament is we can’t wait two games to turn up. It’s not acceptable.”

Wales did well to keep their opponents at bay during the early stages of the first quarter, limiting the Indians to only three shots on goal.

The night had seemed to be descending into a frustrating one for the team ranked 6th in the world rankings when Harmanpreet Singh blew the ball wide from a penalty corner won by Akashdeep Singh.

However the deadlock was soon broken when Shamsher Singh, reacting to a deflected effort from Harmanpreet’s second penalty corner, burst into the box to deliver a low-hit shot at the near-post past Toby Reynolds-Cotterill in goal.

Wales started the second half a goal down but could have provided an immediate equaliser when they were awarded their first penalty corner. However Gareth Furlong failed to make the most of the opportunity and spurred his effort wide.

India then made their opponents pay for their missed effort when Akashdeep doubled his sides lead.

Despite being two goals down, Wales refused to give up and were rewarded for their efforts when Furlong, presented with his second penalty corner, made amends for his earlier miss.  

An improbable comeback was completed soon after when Jacob Draper scored his side’s second goal to bring the game back level at 2-2, setting up a thrilling final fourth quarter.

Needing a win in order to stand a chance at qualifying for the quarter finals, Wales’ dream was cruelly ended when Akashdeep scored his second with a reverse hit to put his side back into the lead.

The fighting spirit that had inspired their comeback didn’t disappear however and keeper Reynolds-Cotterill was taken off for an extra outfield player as hunted for an equaliser and their first point at this level.

But with no-one minding the goal, India were presented with an open door to put the game to bed. Captain Harmanpreet finally got on the scoresheet with just seconds left to give the hosts a 4-2 win.

Despite the defeat, Wales’ team of part-timers can be proud of their efforts after a poor start to the tournament, with a full focus now on gaining a 9th placed finish.

“The other key thing is we take the momentum from today and we go and turn that into two results in the next stage,” said Newcombe.

“For us it’s all about finishing ninth, which for us in our first World Cup would be a huge achievement.”