New Delhi, Feb 26: Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh slammed five goals, including a hat-trick, as India qualified for London Olympics men's hockey after missing out the 2008 edition by spanking France 8-1 in the final of the qualification tournament here.
Coming into the game with the memories of Santiago debacle four years ago still fresh in their minds, the Indians ensured that there was no repeat of the blunder this time around and toyed with the French defence throughout the 70 minutes to score the goals at will. Sandeep, who witnessed the Chile debacle from close quarters, continued his goal-scoring spree to not only help eight-time Olympic champions India keep its date with London, but also emerged as the highest scorer of the tournament with 16 goals.
The 18th ranked Frenchmen proved to be a mismatch for the erstwhile giants of the game as India scored three and five goals respectively in both the halves to dash the European team's London dreams. The Indians were right on the money with their game plan today as France found it impossible to counter the home team's consistent attacks.
The difference between the two teams can be gauged from the fact that both India and France earned as many as seven penalty corners each, but the visitors failed to utilise a single one while the hosts converted six. The rout started with Birendra Lakra's field goal in the 17th minute after which it was a one man show as Sandeep (19th, 26th, 38th, 49th and 51st) converted five successive penalty corners for India to floor France. S V Sunil (43rd) and V R Raghunath (56th) were the other goal-getters for the hosts, while Simon Martin-Brisac (24th) scored the consolation goal for France.