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India realise London dream: Team qualifies for the Olympics after eight years

 

 

 

 

 

Four years is a long time for a wound to fester and India put balm on it with an 8-1 thrashing of France on Sunday, thereby sealing a berth at the London Olympics.

Sandeep Singh could hardly have chosen a better occasion to showcase his breathtaking drag-flicking prowess as he pumped in five unstoppable bullets into the French cage, finishing the tournament with 16 goals in six games.

Spurred on by a near-capacity crowd which made ear-splitting noise from well before the match, the hosts took a while to get into their stride, but once they did there was only going to be one result – a win for India.

The flag-waving, chanting of ‘London Jayenge’ and enthusiasm had clearly got the team charged up and they were not willing to allow a repeat of what happened in Santiago in 2008.

The scenes of utter jubilation at the full-time hooter proved what it means to this bunch to once again mix with the very best in world hockey at the biggest stage of all.

Players hugged the coaches and support staff at the end. It was especially significant to see the team lift exercise physiotherapist David John on their shoulders as the Australian had made them fit enough to take on the best in the world.

The victory march by the players around the main turf of the National Stadium, with the tri-colour in hands, was a gesture to thank the fans who acted as the 12th man for the home team.

Among those watching were shooting aces Ronjan Sodhi and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

It was a scene that will remain etched in the memory of those who witnessed one of the most momentous occasions in the recent history of Indian hockey.

Hockey India and Hotel Lalit announced cash prizes of Rs 2 lakh each for the winners while Rs 1 lakh each for the support staff.

Chief coach Michael Nobbs will now be hailed as a miracle worker as he has transformed the performance and attitude of a talented bunch which, somehow, did not seem to do justice to their ability.

India could not capitalise on their first penalty corner when Sandeep’s shot was saved by French goal-keeper Matthias Dierckens, but he was powerless to save the next six that the hosts earned.

India waited till the 17th minute for the opening goal when good approach work by Sardar Singh, adjudged the player of the tournament, and Manpreet Singh set up Birendra Lakra who made no mistake.

It took India just a couple of minutes to double the lead when Sandeep swept home a drag-flick. Everyone expected it to be smooth sailing from there on, but the French pulled one back when Sebastian Jean-Jean’s hit was expertly deflected past PR Sreejesh by Simon Martin-Brisac.

The goal could have given rise to some anxiety but Sandeep played like a man possessed on the big occasion. He slammed home another goal as India went into the break 3-1 ahead.

After the restart, there was no stopping the Indians as the French were simply overrun.

Sandeep made it 4-1 before Tushar Khandker set up an unmarked SV Sunil in front of goal. Sandeep then fired in two inside three minutes, before VR Raghunath got one in the 56th minute. It was a tale of penalty corners, as in contrast to India, the French squandered the seven they earned.

Short URL: http://www.cckerala.com/?p=4526

Posted by on Feb 27 2012. Filed under Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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