A profligate India [ Images ] succumbed to a 2-3 defeat against the Netherlands on Thursday and face an early exit from the FIH Junior Men's Hockey World Cup in Singapore.
Mink Van Der Weerden's hat-trick sunk India in the crucial Pool D encounter and, consequentially, the Diwakar Ram-led side will have to beat Poland in their final pool match on Friday and hope that New Zealand [ Images ] loses to the Netherlands to clear their passage to the medal round.
Weerden was bang on target with penalty-corners and found the net in the 10th, 14th and 52nd minutes, while Mandeep Antil (fifth minute) and Innocent Kullu (54th) scored for India at the Sengkang Sports Complex.
With this victory, the Netherlands are assured of a place in the next stage. They scores three outright wins from as many outings.
The second position from the pool is still up for grabs with both India and New Zealand in the hunt.
Contrary to the result, the match started with the Indians playing attacking hockey from the start. Their tactics soon bore fruit as Mandeep gave them the lead as early as in the fifth minute through a field goal.
However, their joy was short-lived as Weerden single-handedly turned tables for the Netherlands with two strikes in a span of nine minutes.
He restored parity for the Dutch in the 10th minute, converting their second penalty-corner with a high flick that landed at the right top corner of the Indian goal.
Weerden again struck four minutes later, converting another set-piece with his powerful dragonflies to hand the Netherlands a 2-1 lead.
Stung by the reverse, India stepped on the gas but the Pramod Kumar-led forward line lacked vision and squandered scoring opportunities galore.
Pramod, in particular, was wasteful on quite a few occasions and cut a sorry figure with his trapping.
In the 28th minute, he squandered a golden opportunity to level the score, hitting straight to the body of onrushing Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak.
In the last five minutes of the opening half India earned two penalty-corners but failed to score on both occasions, and had to go into the breather trailing 1-2.
The second half started on a more sedate note with both teams in no mood to concede an inch to the other.
Unfortunately for India, Diwakar was off-colour again with his penalty-corner flicks. There was no surprise element in his drag-flicks as the Dutch goalkeeper easily anticipated his mid-net flick from India's third penalty-corner in the 48th minute.
Weerden, on the other hand, was unstoppable with his penalty-corners and went on to register his hat-trick in the 52nd minute and put his team 3-1 ahead.
Against the run of the play, India reduced the margin two minutes later, Innocent Kullu scoring from a penalty-corner.
Back in the hunt after Kullu's strike, India put pressure on the Netherlands' defence with constant attacks from both the wings but the vigilant Dutch custodian Blaak came in between India and goal as he denied Mandeep twice in the 60th minute.
Four minutes later, Victor Singh came agonisingly close to scoring from a Mandeep cross but his shot missed the cage by a whisker.
The Indians earned three more penalty-corners in the last five minutes of the match, but failed to find the net.