India's Sandeep Singh scores five goals
FAVOURITES India delighted a near-capacity holiday crowd when they made it to the London Olympics with an emphatic 8-1 win over France in the men’s final of the qualifying tournament on Sunday (February 26).
Penalty-corner specialist Sandeep Singh was India’s star of the night, scoring five goals (19th minute, 26th, 38th, 49th, 51st) and his second hat-trick against France.
The other Indian scorers were Birendra Lakra (17th), S V Sunil (43rd) and V R Raghunath (56th).
France, who made their last Olympic appearance in 1972 at Munich, found the target through Simon Martin-Brisac (24th).
“We were confident of qualifying for the London Olympics before the tournament, but the job still had to be done. It’s just a start,” said India coach Michael Nobbs.
“We played a high-intensity game and we will try to play with more intensity in the Olympics. Every player in the team just wants to go out there and perform.”
India, winners of a record eight Olympic men’s titles who failed to make it to the 2008 Beijing Games for the first time since their maiden appearance in 1928, took some time to translate their superiority into goals.
Manpreet Singh made a good attempt from top of the striking circle in the 16th minute but his reverse-hit was saved by French goalkeeper Matthias Dierckens.
India kept pressure on the French goal and struck twice in quick succession, with Lakra scoring off a Manpreet cross and then Sandeep converting a penalty-corner.
France, who lost 6-2 to India in a league match, looked impressive in patches and made it 2-1 when Martin-Brisac deflected in a Sebastien Jean-Jean shot to surprise Indian goalkeeper P R Sreejesh.
There was no stopping India after that as they pumped in six more goals, with Sandeep scoring four and Sunil and Raghunath one apiece.
“This is one of the best matches I have ever played. An 8-1 win speaks a lot about the confidence and form of the team,” said Sandeep, who was named the player of the match.
In other men’s matches, captain Ken Pereira scored two goals as Canada downed Poland 4-3 to finish third. Rob Short and Matthew Guest were the other scorers.
Artur Mikula, Szymon Oszyjczyk and Bartosz Zywiczka found the mark for Paland.
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