New Delhi: Favourites India beat Belgium 2-1 in the final of the 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup on Sunday at Lucknow's Major Dhyan Chand Stadium and reclaimed the crown after 15 long years.
The Indian Under-21 team dominated the European side right from the start. Gurjant Singh provided the lead as early as the eight minute with a killer reverse flick, beating the Belgian goal-keeper to the far post.
Within a minute, Nilakanta Sharma got a golden chance to double the lead, but his effort went wide.
But in the 22nd minute, India eventually doubled the lead with Nilakanta setting up for Simranjeet Singh, this time also the finish coming from a reverse hit.
Playing in their third final, India continued to look for goals allowing Belgians to break for counter-attacks. With minutes into the first-half hooter, India conceded a penalty corner, but the visitors failed to make the most out of it.
After a comfortable first half, India absorbed early pressures from Belgium, and started creating chances for themselves.
In the 48th minute, India earned their third penalty corner, only to waste it.
Belgium, continuing to push for their first opener, almost came close to realizing it in the 53rd minute with Nicolas Ponchelet testing Indian goalie.
True to their fighting spirit, Belgians kept fighting till the end, and they were rewarded with a late consolation goal.
Van Bockrijck Fabrice converted from a penalty corner, and the moment the ball hit goal plank, the long hooter came to the wild celebration of Indian players.
Earlier today, two-time defending champions Germany blanked Australia 3-0 to finish third. They were defeated in the semis by Belgium in a shoot-out.
India won their first junior title, way back in 2001, when they beat Argentina 6-1 at Hobart, Australia. It was their back-to-back final, after losing the 1997 final to Australia by 2 goals to 3 at Milton Keyes, England.
After Germany, India became the second nation to win the title more than once. Germany were the winners in the last two editions, beating Netherlands 3-1 in 2009 at Johor Bahru, Malaysia and France 5-2 in 2013 at New Delhi.
The Germans have always dominated this age-group tournament. They have won it from 1982 to 1993.
Champions of the inaugural edition in 1979, Pakistan failed to make the tournament citing various reasons. They were replaced by Malaysia.