India, a win away from realising London dream

New Delhi: The failure to qualify for 2008 Beijing Olympics still fresh in mind, the Indian hockey team would be desperate to avoid a repeat of the debacle and give the dying national sport a new lease of life when it takes on France in the final of men`s Olympic Qualifiers here tomorrow.

India, with a record eight Olympic men`s titles, suffered a setback four years ago when they failed to make it to the Olympics for the first time in 80 years.

Desperate to avoid the ignominy of missing out on an Olympic berth for the second successive time, India have a golden opportunity to book their London ticket as they lock horns against a less-than-formidable France in the summit clash tomorrow.

Lying 10th, India are way ahead of the Frenchmen (18th) in world rankings, but this will hardly make any difference as one bad day in office can ruin the hosts` London dreams. But going into tomorrow`s match, India at least can take heart from the fact that they defeated France 5-2 in the round-robin stage.

However, going into tomorrow`s match there are some areas of concern for India`s Australian coach Micheal Nobbs.

In their last match against Poland last night, the Indians got as many as nine penalty corners but converted just three. India`s forwardline also lacked finishing against Poland as despite creating numerous chances, they scored only one field goal.

To add to it, defense continued to be India`s perennial problem as they were guilty of conceding soft goals to the opponents. "I am not too happy with the defensive corners and we will practice that area of the game," India coach Nobbs had said.

But all said and done, the Indians would be happy to face France in the final as Canada and Poland looked far superior in the tournament in terms of technique and skill, but what went against them was luck.

The good thing for India is that ace dragflicker Sandeep Singh is in rollicking form in the tournament and is the highest goal-scorer with 11 goals from five outings.
After a hat-trick against France and two goals against, Canada, Sandeep scored two more against Poland yesterday to take his tally in the event to 11.

Apart from Sandeep, S V Sunil too has been impressive upfront even though he failed to score against Poland on Friday.

Even though Nobbs is confident about India`s success in the final, he said it would be a tough match. "It is not going to be easy in the finals against them. Probably, it would be much tighter than what we played in the last time. It is a grand finale and I am sure it would be pretty tight," he had said.