India beat France qualify for Olympics

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New Delhi:
Eight-time champions India are back in the Games with a 8-1 drubbing of
France in the final of the 2012 London Olympic men's hockey qualifiers at
the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Sunday.

Ace
drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, who was a part of the team that lost the
qualifiers in 2008, starred scoring five goals - including a hat-trick -
all from penalty corners (19th, 26th, 38th, 49th and 51st). Birendra Lakra
(17th), S.V. Sunil (43rd) and V.Raghunath (55th) scored goals apiece.
(Related: Match in pics)

Sandeep, who had promised to score at
least 12 goals in the tournament, remained the top scorer with 16 goals.
(Related: Sandeep, the stick magician) France scored their solitary goal
completely against the run of play in the 24th minute through Simon
Brisac-Martin.

Having missed an Olympics (2008 Beijing), for the
first time in 80 years, India were this time determined not to suffer the
same disaster. They did so with a dominating performance as Sandeep ripped
apart the French team with his furry, converting five of the seven penalty
corners that came his way.

There was never any doubt over the
outcome, but the result still surprised. France, who had held Canada 1-1
in their last match to qualify for the final, were expected to put up a
fight but in front of a 15,000 crowd they found the going tough. The
scoreline was bigger than their 2-6 loss to India in the pool match.

France
did their best to tightly mark the Indian forward but in 10 minutes, they
found that it was of no use. India used both the flanks brilliantly with
Tushar Khandekar and S.V. Sunil combining well with the link-men.

India
had their first chance in the 16th minute but Manpreet Singh's slap-shot
from the top of the D was saved well by goalkeeper Matthias Dierckens. In
the next minute, Manpreet, however, played a key role in giving India the
lead. His precise pass found and unmarked Lakra, who slotted it in.

Two
minutes later, India forward Shivendra Singh successfully appealed for a
penalty corner after he was pulled in the D and the video umpire ruled in
favour of India. Sandeep struck as India went 2-0 up. France pulled one
back completely against the run of play in the 24th minute. Sebastian
Jean-Jean made a quick run into the defence and passed it to Simon, who
deflected it into the net.

But in the next minute, Sandeep
slammed again from a penalty corner as India went into the break leading
3-1. For France all hell broke lose in the second half as India pumped in
five more, one from field goal and four from penalty corners to complete
the scoreline.





Also Read: Olympic qualifiers: Indian men, women in finals




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