Bhubaneswar: Skipper and goalkeeper Quico Cortes led from the front with a superb penalty stroke save to help three-time medallist Spain eke out a hard-fought 1-1 draw against lowly France in their second Pool A match at the ongoing men’s hockey World Cup here at the Kalinga Stadium Monday.
The draw kept both the teams in the hunt for the knock-out round with one point apiece from two games.
It was a battle between World No. 8 Spain and the lowest ranked team of the competition France, who are ranked 20th, but it turned out to be a keenly-contested encounter as the Frenchmen gave their opponents a run for their money.
It was France who stunned the Spaniards in the sixth minute when Timothee Clement scored from a field effort. The second quarter completely belonged to the Spanish Armada as they held to 61 percent ball possession compared to their rival’s 39. Such was their dominance that only a single time the ball went in the Spanish ‘D’.
The scoreline would have been in favour of Spain but the credit should be given to Arthur Thieffry as French goalie made a couple of brilliant saves to deny any further damage. It is to be noted that Spain got as many as seven penalty corners in the game but failed to breach Thieffry and his defence even once.
However, after the break both the teams came back strongly in the third quarter but the Frederic Soyez-led side should blame themselves by the opportunities they missed. Enrique Gonzalez missed an open opportunity in the 35th minute before striker Josep Romeu failed to convert from a penalty corner.
However, France got their first penalty corner of the match in the 42nd minute but the skipper Victor Charlet’s upward shot was brilliantly fisted away by Cortes to keep the scores intact.
The equation completely changed in the final quarter as Alvaro Iglesias tapped in a Romeu cross from the left to make it 1-1 for Spain in the 48th minute.
The French had a golden opportunity in the 54th minute when they were awarded a penalty stroke by a video referral after a Spanish defender was guilty of obstruction in from of the goal. But Cortes was once again the hero this time making a brilliant flying save to his right to keep Hugo Genestet’s try at bay.
Spain will next play New Zealand December 6 while France will lock horns with Olympic Champions Argentina later in the day.