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Sandeep cracks fiver as India trounce France 8-1 to qualify for London Olympics

It's time to pack your bags for London. With an emphatic, clinical display, India made up for the slight of missing the Olympic Games last time around by booking their berth for London with an 8-1 trouncing of France...

Last Updated On: Monday, February 27, 2012

 
 

It's time to pack your bags for London. With an emphatic, clinical display, India made up for the slight of missing the Olympic Games last time around by booking their berth for London with an 8-1 trouncing of France.

Maybe, this will mark the beginning of a turnaround for India's national game. It took 17 minutes for India to score their first goal, and after that it was mostly one-way traffic as the hosts answered the prayers of thousands inside the stadium, and millions all over the country, with style and panache here on Sunday.

Egged on by thousands of supporters at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, India slammed three goals in the first half and five more in the second to make it to the Olympics four years after the humiliation of missing out on a berth in Beijing.

India were led in their charge by Sandeep Singh, with the drag-flicker scoring five goals, including a hat-trick, to fashion the win. Such was Sandeep's dominance that he scored five goals from the six penalty corners India received. The other scorers for India were Birendra Lakra, SV Sunil and VR Raghunath.

The stage could not have been set better for India, who came to the tournament as favourites and dominated it completely. They were exceptional in almost all their matches, and Sunday was no exception.

With a nearly-packed stadium cheering every move made by the hosts, it was never going to be easy for France, who started solidly by crowding their defence to deny any soft goals. But the attacking Indians slowed down their game a bit to allow their rivals open up.

The plan worked as Virendra Lakra lapped up the opportunity when he received a pass inside the circle from Manpreet Singh to slam home India's first goal. India took full advantage of the third umpire, which was put into use for the classification matches for the first time in the tournament.

Shivendra Singh appealed successfully for a foul inside the rival defence and the result was a penalty corner for India, which was successfully converted by Sandeep for his first goal.

France did manage to give the home fans some anxious moment when they slammed home through Simon Martin-Brisac. Then it was Sandeep's show all through as India went to the break with a 3-1 lead. The hosts came back to the second half in a more belligerent mood. With France opening up desperately seeking to score goals, it gave them a chance to make regular inroads into the rival defence.

Six more goals in the second half - four of them coming through Sandeep and one each through SV Sunil and VR Raghunath - ensured that India booked a ticket to London in style.

France had their moments in the match, but an alert PR Sreejesh under the bar ensured that they failed to score more than once. Sreejesh's performance was sublime and he played a stellar role in denying France a goal from the seven penalty corners they received.

In the end, a victory lap by the Indians to thanks the crowd for their support was cheered with huge roar. The Olympic berth was likely to give a boost to the national team, which was struggling to hog the limelight in the wake of some ordinary on-field performances and controversies off it.

The win resulted in immediate cash rewards for the team, with Hockey India as well as a city hotel announcing a Rs 1 lakh bounty for each players and Rs 50,000 for support staff.

In earlier matches, Canada overcame a fighting Poland 4-3 to win the bronze, while Italy outclassed Singapore 5-0 to finish fifth in the tournament.

Canada took the lead in the fourth minute before Poland equalized five minutes later. Canada's lead in the 27th minute was again neutralized by Poland a minute later. Two goals in the second half ensured that Canada went home victorious.

Results: India (Birendra Lakra 17th minute; Sandeep Singh 19th, 26th, 38th, 49th, 51st; SV Sunil 43rd; VR Raghunath 56th) bt France 8-1 (Simon Martin-Brisac 24th). Canada bt Poland 4-3. Italy bt Singapore 5-0.

 

London, India, Olympic Games, France, India National Game, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Beijing, Sandeep Singh, Penalty Corners, Birendra Lakra, SV Sunil, VR Raghunath, Manpreet Singh, India First Goal, Simon Martin-Brisac, PR Sreejesh, Hockey India, Canada, Poland