Indian men’s hockey team fail to make it to Beijing OlympicsMarch 10th, 2008 - 11:31 am ICT by admin
Santiago (Chile), March 10 (IANS) Great Britain shut the Olympic door on India’s face as two quick strikes in the first 10 minutes of the final qualifier game here spelt disaster for the Indian hockey team that will now sit out the Olympic Games for the first time since 1928. With the Olympic qualification boiling down to one final game Sunday, India failed to rise to the occasion. India had earlier lost to Great Britain 2-3 in the league phase.
Great Britain struck in the fourth minute through Barry Middleton and six minutes later Richard Mantell made it 2-0. Britain was then content to hold on to the lead as the Indians failed to breach the rival’s citadel.
As the game ended, it marked the first time the eight-time Olympic gold medallists in hockey will stay out of the Olympic Games. India won the Olympic hockey gold six times in a row from 1928 to 1956. They lost the final in 1960, but regained the gold in 1964 at Tokyo. In 1968 and 19672 India failed to reach the final, but returned with bronze medals. In the truncated Olympics in 1980, India won the gold one last time. Since then India has failed to make the semi-finals and this time India failed to make it to the tournament at all.
Within minutes of the defeat, which will surely go down as one of the darkest chapters in Indian hockey, coach Joaquim Carvalho announced that he was going to step down along with his assistants Mohinder Pal Singh and Ramesh Parameswaran.
Under scorching sun in the Chilean summer, the Indians wilted without a serious challenge and as the clock ticked away they turned desperate and nervous. They squandered many chances and then became reckless, committing fouls, which twice resulted in them being reduced to 10 men in the second half.
Great Britain started the game with a sense of purpose and had the Indians on the back foot in the early stages. Middleton made good a pass from Ashley Jackson to open the scoring and that immediately pumped the British up.
With India failing to react early, Great Britain scored again by converting a penalty corner, which was earned after a decisive run by James Tindall. Richard Mantell scored off the penalty corner with a direct flick.
Two up, Great Britain began controlling the midfield, forcing the Indians to start their run from far away or to rely on deep balls. The British defenders kept intercepting them.
With their moves not bearing fruit and time running out, Indians did increase their pace, but their frustration also resulted in some rough play.
Umpires Henrik Ehlers of Denmark and John Wright of South Africa had to bring out their cards more often. Despite being stretched, Great Britain held out very well and did not allow Indians any clear shots at the goal.
In the last 10 minutes of the first half, despite been reduced to 10 players when Sardar Singh received a yellow card, India kept besieging the English circle but only had one dangerous attempt at goal on a penalty corner by V.R. Raghunath. That was well deflected by Alistair McGregor.
Meanwhile, Great Britain came close to getting their third goal through Rob Moore, but Baljit Singh brought off a miraculous save.
In the second half, the tension was even higher. With the Indian fans in the stands adding to the din, the players went all out but nothing really came out of that.
Again it was Great Britain who had a superb chance to make the break in the early stages of the period when a run by Richard Alexander gave them a great opportunity. However, much to India’s relief Jonty Clarke was not able to control the ball in front of an open goal.
India were reduced to 10 players a second time when Prabhjot Sngh was penalised for a reckless back tackle. That send-off gave Britain more breathing space.
Even as India tried, it was Great Britain who were coming to close to scoring again. They created another golden opportunity when Clarke beat the Indian goalkeeper in a one-on-one but the shot hit the post.
As the end neared Great Britain were playing cautiously to avoid giving Sardar Singh and Rajpal Singh a chance. The Indians also wasted penalty corners in their nervousness.
The last few minutes saw Indians become more disorganised and they then withered away before the hooter sounded the death-knell. There will be no Indian men’s hockey team at the Olympic Games for the first time in 80 years.
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