|March 9th, 2008|
|18||Final 1-2||6:00pm||GBR - IND||2 - 0 (2 - 0)||Final||x 2|
As widely expected, the Olympic qualification would come down to a final showdown between Great Britain and India, the two highest ranked teams in the competition. The result of the pool game (narrow win 3-2 for Great Britain) didn’t mean anything any more, only the 70 minutes of this Final in the scorching heat of the Chilean summer. This important game was umpired by Henrik EHLERS of Denmark and John WRIGHT of South Africa.
Great Britain started the game with more purpose in their play, immediately pushing India on their heels. In the 4th minute, Barry MIDDLETON received a great pass from Ashley JACKSON and didn’t miss the opportunity to open the scoring. India seemed to have trouble reacting and did not threaten the British defense for a while. On a penalty-corner earned after a decisive run by James TINDALL, Richard MANTELL increased the scoring with a direct flick.
Great Britain was controlling the midfield, forcing the Indians to start their run from far away or to rely on deep balls easily intercepted by the British defense. Momentum started to shift halfway through the period and Alistair McGREGOR in the British goal was called into action. With the Indian increasing their pace, the game also became rougher and the umpires had to use their cards to try and cool down the tempers. Great Britain were stretched at time but held their defensive structure well, efficiently thwarting all the Indian attempts to get close enough for a shot at goal.
In the last ten minutes of the half, despite been reduced to ten 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, well deflected by Alistair McGREGOR. Great Britain were obviously careful to maintain their cohesive defense and did not try to exploit their numerical advantage, except on a fast counter-attack by Rob MOORE when Baljit SINGH in the Indian goal had a miraculous save to prevent the gap to widen and keep his team in the game.
Tension was high in second half, maintained by the Indian drums in the stands. Great Britain had a superb chance to make the break in the early stages of the period when a run by Richard ALEXANDER created a 3 on 2 situation, but Jonty CLARKE could not control the bouncing ball in front of the open goal. India were reduced again to ten players when Prabhjot SINGH was penalized for a reckless back tackle, giving some more space to the British players to develop their build-up. Great Britain created another golden opportunity when Jonty CLARKE cleanly beat the Indian goal-keeper one on one but saw his shot hit the post!
Great Britain were playing cautiously to avoid exposing themselves to the runs of Sardar SINGH and Rajpal SINGH. Meanwhile, with the clock ticking down, there was more urgency in the Indian ranks, their nervousness showing on a series of penalty-corners which they badly spoiled.
In the last minutes of the game, the Indian attempts became more disorganized, as if they had already accepted that they would not break through the British defense, the drums in the stands became silent in mourning of the first non-qualification of an Indian team for the Olympic games and the British could cruise to a deserved victory that earns them a berth in the Beijing Olympic Games.