The morale of the Indian men’s hockey team may have taken a knock after their 1-5 thrashing at the hands of World Champions Australia in their previous game. After all, it’s never easy for any team to pick up the pieces and straightaway come out all guns blazing.
The Michael Nobbs-coached Indians needed to take the heavy defeat in their stride and come out the hard away – and they precisely did that, putting it across France 5-1 to seal a fifth place play-off match against Spain on Sunday.
India’s recent performances against France have been impressive. India had trounced France 4-0 and 8-4 in a two Test series in July last year as preparation for the 2012 London Olympics. They had crushed France 8-1 in the final Olympic qualifier in New Delhi after having beaten them 6-2 in the league phase.
So, India had a lot going for them when they locked horns with France. The Blueshirts must have experience huge amount of frustration to once again let in an early goal – something which have become a familiar trend these days – experienced Martin Genstet, who earlier played his 100th international during the tournament – slammed home in the 3rd minute after Indian goal-tender PR Sreejesh effected a save from one of his team-mates.
And to add insult to injury, Indian conceded a penalty corner in the 5th minute after Birendra Lakra got it wrong inside the striking circle, but France failed to profit from it as rookie Gurmail Singh cleared it away.
The Sardar Singh-led side gradually pulled up their socks and restored parity in the 10th minute when Akashdeep Singh made the most of a rebound off the French goalkeeper after the ball was played inside the ‘D’ by SV Sunil – it was Akashdeep’s second goal of the tournament.
Chinglensana Singh engineered India’s first penalty corner in the 26th minute and vice-captain Vokkaliga Raghunath duly obliged beating the French goalkeeper all ends up.
Chinglensana Singh was again in the thick of action as he and SV Sunil orchestrated a nice move before the former rattled the French cage with two minutes remaining for the half-time hooter.
Sunil, for all his good form in the tournament, finally found his name on the scoresheet.
India started the second half on a positive note with captain Sardar Singh deflecting home a Dharamvir Singh freehit in the 42nd minute.
France looked promising to reduce the margin in the 46th minute, but Viktor Lockwood’s close range effort was well saved by PR Sreejesh.
France forced a couple of short corners, but they failed to cash on it.
Sandeep Singh converted India’s second penalty corner in the 53th minute, but the goal was disallowed after the third umpire upheld the French referral.
India made up for that two minutes later when Mandeep Singh deflected home a Dharamvir Singh pass for the team’s fifth goal after he was fed by Shivendra Singh.
France won their fourth short corner in the 61st minute following a stick-check by Manpreet Singh on one of their players, but they failed to capitalize on it.
India pumped in the sixth goal in the 69th minute when Mandeep Singh tapped home a diagonal SV Sunil pass to complete the French rout.
Guillaume Deront reduced the margin in the final minute of play converting his team’s sixth penalty corner, but India walked away as the worthy winners