Indian men’s team beat France 8-1 in the Finals of Hero FIH Road to London 2012, 1st of 3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which was held at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, New Delhi. While in women’s tournament final, South Africa defeated India 3-1 to qualify for London Games, which dashed the hopes of Indian eves team to play in Olympics after 32 years. It was Indian girls first appearance in a FIH tournament in recent years and they lost to a better side, South Africa with more experience and better records in past. Indian women’s team chief coach CR Kumar needs to be applauded for his efforts in team’s noticable progress under his watchful eyes and guidance.
The India’s men team, coached by former Australian international hockey player Michael Jack Nobbs, was ruthless in their approach throughout the tournament, but had some tough times against Poland and Canada in the league stage of the tourney. On the other hand, final match against France was a different story. Indians were on attack from the word go, but French player defended it well until the deadlock was broken by youngster Birendra Lakra (17th minute) with a close range reverse hit. And 2 minutes later Sandeep Singh converted India’s 2nd penalty corner, which was earned by video-umpire referral claiming French defender pulled Shivendra Singh when he was trying to latch the free ball in front the goalie. Though France pulled one back through MARTIN-BRISAC Simon in a swift counter attack in 24th minute and reduced the margin to 2-1. Within two minutes the lead was restored by Sandeep Singh, when converted another penalty corner. India went in lemon break with the two goals lead (3-1).
Indians came out after the break with to blitzkrieg, specially the ace drag flicker Sandeep Singh, who completed his hat-trick of this match (2nd in the tournament) in 38th minute of game in PC and he went on scoring two more goals in 49th and 51st minutes. Thus he scored total 5 goals in the final match (won player of the match) and 16 goals in the tournament. In the meantime, SV Sunil found the board in 43rd minute. And the eighth and last goal of India came from the stick of Raghunath (again on PC) in 56th minute. Afterwards, France held well to not to concede more goals, while Indian custodian PR Sreejesh was in his elements and led the Indian defense to clear the French danger when they got three penalty corner in a row.
Final Standings (men):
1) India, qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London
Player of the Tournament: Sardar SINGH (India)
Goal-keeper of the Tournament: Mariusz CHYLA (Poland)
Top Goal Scorer: Sandeep SINGH (India), 16 goals
Fair Play: India
Final Standings (Women):
1) South Africa, qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London
Player of the Tournament: Marsha MARESCIA (South Africa)
Goal-keeper of the Tournament: Roberta LILLIU (Italy)
Top Goal Scorer: Alessia PADALINO (Italy), 8 goals
Fair Play: India