|February 26th, 2012|
|18||Final||8:00pm||IND - FRA||8 - 1 (3 - 1)||Final||x 75|
The final match of the Hero FIH Road to London tournament, with the Olympic qualification on the line, started in a fiery atmosphere in a Major Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium in Delhi finally full to capacity. India needed to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd after missing the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, while France were hoping to stop a 40 years drought, having last participated in an Olympic competition back in 1972 in Munich.
Pushed by the boisterous crowd, India were immediately all over the French circle. They forced their first penalty-corner within five minutes of play, but Sandeep SINGH’s flick was countered by a speedy Francois SCHEEFER, very fast off the block. The French were very focused on the task at hand, closely marking the Indian forwards one-on-one and not taking any risk when they had the ball. They had their first incursion in the Indian circle after eleven minutes of play, and started to be a little more daring in their attacks, but still retreating fast in defense as soon as they were losing the ball.
India were having a hard time penetrating the tightly meshed French defense, only managing one serious shot in the first eighteen minutes. It was well saved by Matthias DIERCKENS in the French goal, but there was not much he could do shortly after when Birendra LAKRA received the ball on the penalty-stroke point, and swiftly addressed a reverse stick shot high in the goal, throwing the adoring crowd in total ecstasy.
India used the video-umpire referral to claim a penalty-corner and this time Sandeep SINGH slotted his powerful flick high over the head of the French defenders to widen the gap to two goals. The French were however not down yet, and exposed the leaks in the Indian defense when a powerful pass by Sebastien JEAN-JEAN found Simon MARTIN-BRISAC for a deflection past Sreejesh PARATTU RAVEENDRAN in the Indian goal!
France used a different defense on the next Indian penalty-corner, with the goal-keeper as first runner, but they could not prevent Sandeep SINGH to score his second goal of the match to re-established the 2-goal lead for India. France had a last chance on penalty-corner but half-time was reached on the 3-1 score for India.
India started second period at full speed and French goal-keeper Matthias DIERCKENS needed to run out of the circle to tackle an Indian attacker. Sandeep SINGH had another attempt at penalty-corner shortly after and dutifully slotted it, this time in the top right corner, to complete a hat-trick in this match.
France had their chances on a series of penalty-corners, and were unlucky to hit the post. India scored their fifth goal when France was playing short a player on a green card and things started to look grim for the French team. Tempers were running high, fed by the very vocal crowd, and France started to be overwhelmed by the incessant Indian attacks. Sandeep SINGH scored two additional penalty-corners to push the score to 7-1, for a total of 17 goals in the competition so far!
India were still going hard towards the French goal in the final minutes of play and Matthias DIERCKENS was called in action time and time again to prevent the score to worsen past 8-1.
Soon the players and the crowd, and probably hockey enthusiasts all over India, could start dancing to celebrate the return of India to the Olympic Games, after clearly winning this Hero FIH Road to London tournament.
Player of the Match was Sandeep SINGH, scoring 5 goals for India in this match.