All the excitement, expectations and vociferous support generated by a packed gathering at the Dhyan Chand Stadium on Thursday failed to inspire India to a winning performance in the Hero Honda hockey World Cup.
The 2-5 defeat against Spain has almost doused the chances of the team making the last four, especially with England and Australia in such splendid form in Pool B.
Spain was a transformed side as the players, despite the absence of the injured Eduard Tabau, functioned with a palpable unison.
On the contrary, India succeeded only in building up pressure without a matching strategy to translate opportunities into goals.
Unable to convert
Prabhjot and Rajpal worked up enough pace to stretch the Spanish defence, but the attack was nowhere near overcoming the resistance. It was left to the diminutive Bharat Chikkara to dart in repeatedly.
The long passes by Sandeep Singh and Gurbaj rattled the rivals a bit but none of the forwards could succeed in getting a deflection in. At least on two occasions the chances went waste.
The only penalty corner earned in the first half ended with Sardar flunking the rebound after goalkeeper Cortes had stopped Sandeep's shot.
Amidst the raising passion, it was Spain that struck first when Albert Sala scored after accepting a pass from Pol Amat.
Goal-keeper Sreejesh made a couple of saves but before half-time Pol Amat surprised him with a neat deflection to enlarge the lead.
Shortly after the break, Sandeep reduced the margin with a thunderbolt of a shot that left goalkeeper Cortes flabbergasted.
But the joy was ephemeral as Spain struck twice in a space of few minutes. Pau Quemada sent the ball to the roof of the net from a penalty corner and that was followed by a shock goal by Roc Oliva.
Though India hit back, when Gurvender Chandi tapped in a cross from Tushar, Quemada netted Spain's fifth in the closing minutes to hoist a comfortable victory.
Earlier, England produced a scintillating show to take full points against Pakistan. The 5-2 result virtually put the team into the last four.
It was a tension-packed and incident filled contest which saw three yellow cards being whipped out and a serious injury to the England's top star Richard Mantell.
Amidst the mayhem of players clashing and jostling, there were superbly struck goals too. Jonty Clarke produced a stunner of an effort, diving full stretch in front to connect a cross from James Tindell,
This goal set the tempo for an bright spell from the Englishmen that completely subjugated the Pakistani defensive network.
Ashley Jackson then shocked goal-keeper Salman Akbar by converting a pass from Barry Middleton.
Aware that an attacking display was not be to delayed any more, the Pakistanis took the initiative and forced the pace.
When Shakeel Abbasi managed to sneak in and strike shortly after resumption, the atmosphere became charged. There were fluent and fierce exchanges.
A penalty corner scrimmage, following a fine save by James Fair from a penalty corner hit by Sohail, ended in melee.
Rehan Butt slammed in a hit by Rizwan from the right. As the goal was signalled, came the video referral even as Mantell lay prone of the ground with the medical staff rushing in. Pakistan had equalised and was desperate to consolidate.
Events began to take an ugly turn and when Mackay engaged Imran Mohammad in a bizarre tackle, a yellow card was invoked.
England, which regained the lead with a splendidly struck, zero angle goal by Barry Middleton, soon tightened the grip. Jonty Clarke powered in the fourth and paved the way for Barry Middleton to complete a memorable triumph.
There was a fracas on the field as the hooter went off, forcing the officials, including the Tournament Director, Ken Read, run in to mollify the players involved in the clash.
England has nine points for three successive victories, while Pakistan's tally remains at three from the same number of matches.
A dozen goals!
Earlier, Australia displayed its awesome power to overwhelm South Africa with a dozen goals without reply.
If there is a lingering doubt whether the Aussies would make it to the last four, let alone regaining the glittering Cup after 1986, the show on Thursday evening left even the eternal doubters without a search for an alternative squad in the 12. So commanding were the Aussies that the South Africans were blown away like dry leaves in a storm. The margin ranks as the best ever in the history of World Cup, equalling 12-3 verdict that Pakistan gained against New Zealand in 1982 at Bombay.
Statistics are mere heartless figures that do not always convey the true import. The Aussie demonstration went beyond the figures; it underlined the acme of perfection in formulating and finishing at the all important end.
Doerner drills in four
Any effort to identify an individual in the team as the best is an exercise in futility. If the yardstick is figures then Luke Doerner takes the cake with four strikes. His whiplash drives brooked no reply from the goal-keeper or from the defenders.
Jamie Dwyer took credit for netting three goals. He was well served by Desmond Abbott, Glenn Tuner and Mark Knowles.
The only consolation for the loser was that it contained the redoubtable opponent scoreless for 15 minutes. The South Africans even made a few sorties across with Julian Hykes testing goal-keeper Nathan Burgers in the first quarter.
The results: Pool B: Australia 12 (Luke Doerner 4, Glenn Turner 2, Desmond Abbott, Fergus Kavangh, Matthew Butturini, Jamie Dwyer 3) bt South Africa 0. HT 5-0.
England 5 (Jonty Clarke 2, Ashley Jackson, Bary Middleton 2) bt Pakistan 2 (Shakeel Abbasi, Rehan Bhat). HT 2-0.
Spain 5 (Albert Sala, Pol Amat, Pau Quemada 2, Roc Oliva) bt India 2 ( Sandeep Singh, Gurvinder Chandi). HT 2-0.
Friday's matches: Korea vs. New Zealand (4.35 p.m.); Netherlands vs. Canada (6.35 p.m.); Germany vs. Argentina (8.35 p.m.).