Britain end India's Olympic dream

India's hockey team fails to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since their debut in 1928. Britain won the qualifier 2-0.

updated: December 31, 2008 07:54 IST
  • Total Shares


Eight-time gold medalists India failed to make it to the Olympics for the first time since their debut in 1928.

Scoring twice in the first-half, Britain ended India's Olympic dreams with a 2-0 win in the final of the World Hockey qualifying tournament at the Prince of Wales Country Club, here.

Barry Middleton (4th minute) and Richard Mantell (10th) struck for Britain who then showed the discipline and character to withstand intense pressure in the late night match to emerge deserving winners while qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

While the Britain players celebrated to the accompaniment of the song "We are the Champions", the Indian, heads bowed, shoulders slumped, could only watch the jubilant scenes of a team that played smarter if not better hockey.

On the day, it was Britain who showed a lot of steel in dealing with the massive pressure they were subjected to by the Indian forwards. The difference was that Britain, who had beaten India 3-2 in the league, capitalized on the two early chances that came their way, while the Indians did not.

In contrast, India could never really settle down and the two yellow cards to their key players, midfielder Sardara Singh and forward Prabhjot Singh filled their cup of woe. It brought the number of yellow cards to five in three matches.

India also blew five penalty corners with neither Ramachandra Raghunath with his drag-flicks nor Dilip Tirkey with his direct hits able to convert. In fact, their set-piece drill in the second-half was rather pathetic, as the ball was not even stopped cleanly.

Britain's first-half tactics were fairly obvious and that was to seize early initiative. Two goals within the first 10 minutes put them firmly in front while pushing India on the backfoot.

While Britain's performance slick and sure, the Indians struggled to get going. The two teams were a study in contrast with Britain sticking to basics of close marking, quick release and positional play.

In contrast, India seemed to run out of ideas and there was predictability in their attacks with the long balls to the wings in much use. However, on the day, Britain defence was near flawless in trapping and clearing.

Middleton scrambled the ball in from a Ashley Jackson pass with the Indian defence caught square in the very fourth minute and then Richard Mantell drag-flicked a 10th minute penalty corner to put Britain on top.

India did knit together a few moves, but at the finish, it was the same old tale of wrong passes and at times, too much of individual play. With the time ticking by, India made desperate attempts force a penalty corner and finally succeeded in the 31st minute. But Raghunath failed to beat goalkeeper Alistair McGregor.

A little earlier, Sardara Singh was sent out with two green cards in the 26th minute and his absence meant another round of reshuffling that affected Indian team balance.

In between the Indian attacks, Britain squeezed a couple of more raids and nearly scored twice with Jackson and then Tindall shooting wide of target.

On resumption, the Indians attacked with some urgency, but they suffered a setback when Prabhjot Singh was sent out with a yellow card suspension for deliberate stick-chek. Yet again, it limited India's options while leaving a huge hole in the frontline.

India's persistence fetched them their second penalty corner in the 47th minute, but goalkeeper McGregor easily blocked Dilip Tirkey's direct hit.

Seven minutes later, India forced three penalty corners in quick succession, but twice Ignace Tirkey and then Shivendra Singh failed to stop the ball. Worse still, Ignace limped off the field after being struck on the knee by the British charger.

At the other end, goalkeeper Baljit Singh kept India in the game with some good saves as Britain wasted three penalty corners.

Even as Indians grew in desperation, Britain kept their composure to survive the vital final moments of a match that barely rose to expectations in terms of quality, though did not lack intensity and passion.

Earlier, Russia defeated Austria 6-3 to finish overall third while Chile overcame Mexico 9-3 in the play-off for 5-6 positions.

Final standings:
1. Great Britain
2. India
3. Russia
4. Austria
5. Chile
6. Mexico.

Special awards: Austria (Fairplay Trophy), Alejandro Vargas Garcia (Mexico, best goalkeeper), Felipe Montegu (Chile, topscorer, 11 goals), Prabhjot Singh (India, player of the tournament).