India produced yet another brave performance but that was not enough as World No.1 Argentina reached their first ever final at the Hockey World League Final (HWL) with a narrow 1-0 win over the hosts in Bhubaneswar on Friday. India were also gunning for their appearance in the summit clash of the HWL Final, however, it wasn't to be as Gonzalo Peillat scored the only goal of the match in the 17th minute. The hosts, though, never gave up and fought for the equaliser right till the final whistle and despite making numerous inroads into the opposition box, they failed to find the killer touch.
The conditions were not the best for hockey with heavy rain leaving the turf waterlogged. Ground passing in certain areas of the field was next to impossible but it the South Americans seemed to adapt quicker.
Indian players, especially, struggled with their ground passes with many failing to reach the receiver due to the heavily waterlogged turf.
Argentina dominated possession in the first two quarters with India defending deep. Gonzalo scored in the 17th minute via a penalty corner to give the Argentines a deserved lead.
The Indians had more shots on goal (5 to Argentina's 4) and circle entries (11 against 10) than their opponents, but what eluded them is a goal that could have taken the match into a shoot-out.
India had lost in the semi-final in the event's last edition at Raipur in 2015, eventually finishing third.
The Argentines remained calm after taking the lead and slowed down the pace of the match considerably whenever they wanted.
The Indians, though, displayed much better hockey after the change of ends as they created numerous scoring chances but once again lacked finishing touches.
The hosts had two golden opportunities to equalise when they won back to back penalty corners but Rupinderpal Singh failed to convert both.
India threw everything they had in the final quarter and even dominated possession but Argentina kept all their players behind the ball to deny the hosts.
Argentina will face the winner of the second semi-final that will be played between Australia and Germany on Saturday. India, meanwhile, will contest for the bronze medal on Sunday and will take on the loser of the second semis.
(With PTI Inputs)