Indian men’s hockey team beat their French rivals 8-1 on Sunday in the final of the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers here, getting an easy ticket.Having been eight times Olympic gold medallists until 1980, the Indian team lost the qualifier in 2008 and missed playing in the Olympics for the first time in eight decades. This time it was relatively easier for the 10th-ranked Indians facing the 18th-ranked France, more so after having beaten them with a comfortable 6-2 margin in the league phase. The host team entered the tournament as favorites, being the highest ranked amongst the six nations competing in the event. The India leg of the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers men’s competition,featuring Italy, Poland, Singapore, Canada and France besides the host team, is the first of the three-leg qualifying events for the July Games. India displayed an impressive hockey to beat France 8-1 in the final of the Olympics qualifier final and secured a place in the mega event in London. Sandeep Singh scored five goals in the packed Dhyan Chand stadium in New Delhi on Saturday. The failure to qualify for 2008 Beijing Olympics still fresh in mind, the Indian hockey team avoided a repeat of the debacle and gave the dying national sport a new lease of life. 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.
Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh scored five goals to almost single-handedly put India in the 2012 London Olympics. Raghunath extended India’s lead to 8-1 in the 56th minute with another goal through penalty corners. India had a field day during penalty corners as they converted six out of seven into goals – five by Sandeep Singh alone. Sandeep carried his good run to the summit clash as he scored his fifth and fourth goals in quick succession (49th and 51st). Sunil scored India’s fifth goal in the 43rd minute after Sandeep completed his hat-trick in the 38th minute soon after the lemon-break. Sandeep scored hat-trick through penalty corners to lead the Indian attack. India opened their goal account with Birendra Lakra’s first goal of the tournament in the 17th minute.