New Delhi: Considered as the favourites of favourites, holders India started their Kabaddi World Cup title defence in a shocking way, losing to a spirited South Korean outfit at Ahmedabad on Friday.
After an elaborate opening ceremony, with celebrities from both the sporting and film worlds dominating the glitter quotient, the 2016 edition kick started with India taking on outsiders, but not certainly pushovers Koreans, in a Pool A match.
But the result was a shocker for the packed crowd as the seven-time champions India failed to make a positive start to their campaign, losing 31-34 to South Korea in the opening match.
It was an extraordinary effort by Korea, who came back strongly at the death to clinch a thrilling win over favourites India. It was Korea's first ever win over India.
India were in the lead for most of the contest but Korea managed to reduce India's lead to three points with little over three minutes on the clock at the fag end of the match.
Indian captain Anup Kumar said: "Our raiders weren't at their best today, we also made some mistakes at the end and that's why we lost. But nothing's lost yet. We will get back and correct our mistakes."
India were 18-13 ahead at the half time but Korea were giving them a real run for their money. Anup Kumar lead from the front and has been in top form but his fellow raiders Jasvir Singh and Rahul Chaudhari could not get going.
Dharmaraj Cheralathan and Manjeet Chhillar had a good half.
In the second half, Korea reduced the deficit to just three points at 15-18 but two superb ankle holds from Manjeet put India 22-15 ahead. Not ready to give up, Korea, however, slowly and steadily made it 19-24 and then 26-29 before leveling at 31-31.
Deepak Hooda was then outnumbered by Korea, who went into the lead at 33-31, courtesy Super raid by Jan Kun Lee.
The two-week event which will see 12 teams lock horns with each other is being held in India`s western city of Ahmedabad.
Kabaddi features two seven-member teams facing off on a tennis court-sized pitch.
A "raider" from each team has to dash into the rival half and touch players from the opposing team without being tackled before escaping back to safety on their side of the court.
The game is played in around 35 countries but India has traditionally dominated the sport, winning all seven gold medals at the Asian Games since it was introduced in 1990.
Pakistan, another strong team, were barred from the ongoing competition due to a spike in tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
In the day's second match, another favourites Asian Games silver medalists Iran thumped United States 51-15 in their Pool B opener. Unlike other sporting rivalries between the two nations which have a history of animosity, the Kabaddi match witnessed nothing of that sort.
India will play Australia tommorow in their second match.
(With Agency inputs)