Indian lesson for France

Sandeep Singh strikes three goals as hosts score third straight win

 India passed their first real test in the FIH Olympics Qualifiers with flying colours, tackling a dangerous France in clinical fashion here on Tuesday.

Sand storm: Sandeep Singh (left) celebrates with SV Sunil and Tushar Khandkar after       scoring his third goal against France in the Olympic Qualifiers in New Delhi on Tuesday. APAfter having cruised past minnows Singapore and Italy in their opening set of matches, favourites India were expected to be given a run for their money, and while they were given so, they responded brilliantly, powering to a facile 6-2 victory at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium.

The past two matches hardly offered India a chance to showcase their complete strength where they attacked right from the very beginning and never let up until the end. Knowing for certain that a dogged France wouldn’t make life as easy for them, the Indians rode on a simple strategy –  strike early and consolidate. The plan worked to the hilt, both in the first and second halves where they struck twice each inside the opening ten minutes to pretty much seal the game and maintain pole position with nine points.

Tushar Khandkar laid the foundation when, in the fourth minute, he sent a precise cross from the left to Sarvanjit Singh, who pushed it to the dynamic Shivendra Singh, the striker completing the fine move with a nice flick.

In-form Sandeep Singh then rifled in the first of his three goals with a stinging drag-flick as India got the start they wanted and pushed France on to the back foot even before they could settle down.  However, the European side got their act together quickly, choking India in the midfield with as many six players, preventing the hosts from delivering free passes to their waiting strikers.

India quickly analysed the strategy and instead of the lung-bursting pace with which they operated in the previous matches, chose to spread the ball wide and attack whenever an opportunity presented itself.

With France forcing the issue only sporadically, the Indians were happy to attack on the counter and SV Sunil set up the third goal with a dashing run in the 30th minute. The wily striker, who picked up his second consecutive man-of-the-match award, drove the ball from his own half and burst down the flank before being brought down inside the circle, earning a penalty corner which Sandeep converted.

India conceded a goal at the stroke of half time but restored the advantage two minutes into the second half before making it 5-1 in the 39th minute, Sandeep and Sunil scoring respectively.

Credit must also be given to the Indian defenders who, called into action for the first time, did a fine job, their only concern being stopping penalty corners.

Canada, Poland win

Joint favourites Canada cashed in on their chance of exploiting the tournament’s whipping boys Singapore, while dark horses Poland strengthened their cause for a shot in the final with a clinical win over minnows Italy.

Canada, who suffered a hiccup on Sunday after crashing to a hard-fought 2-3 defeat against Poland, hammered an already battered Singapore 15-1 and Poland continued carried on from they had left off, ripping a listless Italy 7-2.

The victories put both teams in a three-way tie for the second spot at six points along with France as the tournament hits the business end with two matches left in the league phase.


Results: Canada: 15 (Philip Wright 7th, Mark Pearson 7th, 35th, 40th, 52nd Rob Short 11th, 50th, 69th, Scott Tupper 19th, 23rd, 29th, 68th, Sukhwinder Singh 31st, Richard Hildreth 45th, Matt Guest 57th) bt Singapore: 1 (Kai Bin Chia 13th); Poland: 7 (Miroslaw Juszczak 6th, 34th, Szymon Hutek 7th, Szymon Oszyjczyk 16th, Karol Majchrzak 52nd, Tomasz Gorny 65th, Artur Mikula 66th) bt Italy: 2 (Daniele Malta 13th, 32nd); India: 6 (Shivendra Singh 4th, Sandeep Singh 9th, 30th, 37th, SV Sunil 39th, Tushar Khandkar 62nd) bt France: 2 (Lucas Sevestre 35th, Fabien Magner 57th).

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