France create history, reach maiden Junior Hockey World Cup final

New Delhi: Underdogs France friday scripted history by making their maiden appearance in the summit clash of the Hero Junior Men`s Hockey World Cup, defeating Malaysia via penalty shoot-out in the first semi-final of the quadrennial event at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here.

France, who never went past the pool stages since the introduction of the event in 1979, showed tremendous fighting spirit and came from a goal down to beat Malaysia 3-1 in the shoot-out after both the teams were locked at 1-1 at the regulation time.

It was a red letter day for French hockey as till date their best performance in the tournament was a seventh-place finish at home in the introductory edition of the event in 1979.

Contrary to the result, Malaysians were quick to get off the blocks and surprised the French defence as early as in the fourth minute through a field goal from an unmarked Azri Hassan, who had plenty of time to beat Edgar Reynaud in France goal.

France had trouble finding their rhythm, but progressively pushed forward. Simon Martin Brisac had a chance in the 20th minute after working hard on the back-line but was left with no angle and his shot went in the side net.

After hitting the post from their first penalty-corner, the French had most of the ball possession but could not penetrate the Malaysian defence.

France once again struck the post from their second penalty-corner.

Play was intense, with plenty of action, but no more goals were scored and the Asian Champions went into the break with a very narrow one-goal lead.

After the change of ends, Hafizuddin Othman in Malaysian goal denied France their third penalty-corner.

But France, who stunned European champions Belgium in the quarterfinals, were in no mood to give up without a fight and were finally rewarded of their persistence in the 63rd minute when Jean-Laurent Kieffer got a slight touch of deflect ball to send the large group of French fans into raptures.

In the shoot-out, France scored twice from one-on-one position while the Malaysian could find the back of the net just once.

France will now face the winner of the second semifinal between defending champions Germany and The Netherlands in the summit clash on Sunday.