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India sinks to a new low in Olympics hockey
India's fifth loss in a row - a 0-3 scoreline against Belgium - confirmed their worst showing at the Olympics.
London: India on Tuesday ended their Olympic Games campaign with an ignominious all-loss record, their worst in the history of the mega event, after they were drubbed 3-0 by a lowly Belgium in their last pool match here.
Fumbling strikers continued to cause misery for India and their humiliation was complete at the Olympic Park arena as they muffed numerous scoring chances to finish at the bottom of Pool B after their fifth defeat on the trot.
The eight-time Olympic gold medallists finished their pool matches without a single point.
India's bottom finish in Pool B was a foregone conclusion irrespective of the result of this match as all other teams had earned four or more points in the previous games, but this loss was the first time India had failed to gain even one point.
India will now meet South Africa in the play-off for the 11th and 12th positions, slumping below their lowest previous Olympic finish of eighth in Atlanta in 1996. India had not qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Belgium scored through Jerome Dekeyser (15th minute), Gautier Boccard (47th) and Tom Boon (70th) to shatter India's hopes of salvaging something from the last game.
South Africa, who on Tuesday lost 3-6 to Argentina, finished their five matches in Pool A with one point, leaving India as the only team not to have gained a single point in the men's hockey competition.
India's strikers continued to play an erratic game and missed a numerous chances against Belgium, who had beaten India in their last encounter in the final of the Champions Challenge in Johannesburg last year.
The Indian strikers repeatedly broke into the Belgian circle, but failed to breach the defence and only earned two penalty corners in the whole match, which too could not produce a goal.
Belgium, on the other hand, capitalised on the openings that allowed their strikers time and space inside the Indian scoring zone.
At the start, play was confined to the midfield before Belgium earned their first penalty corner in the 12th minute, but it posed no danger as the rising shot hit an onrushing Indian defender.
Two minutes later, India first broke into the rival circle, but the Belgians crowded the zone and did not allow the Indian strikers to have a shy at the goal.
Belgium went ahead in the 15th minute as the Indian defence's poor positioning left Jerome Dekeyser unmarked at the top of the circle and gave him enough time to receive a well-measured diagonal ball. Dekeyser took one step into the circle and beat the onrushing goalkeeper Bharat Chetri with a rasping shot that went high into the goal.
Indian defence appeared shaky as Belgium again went into the Indian circle two minutes later, but the shot was directed wide to the relief of the defenders.
India earned their first penalty corner in the 21st minute, but ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh did not take the shot. Instead an indirect attempt was made in which Sardar Singh pushed the ball towards Gurbaz Singh, whose deflection went into the sideboards.
India came back into the match midway in the first session, but the Belgians held on. Tushar Khandker had two shots at the goal from top of the circle in the 22nd minute, when the ball rebounded off the post on the first occasion and then Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch padded the second attempt.
Right winger SV Sunil broke into the circle a minute later, but shot straight into the goalkeeper. Soon after, Sunil had only the goalkeeper to beat after picking up a ball from Dharamvir Singh, but the shot was easily padded away.
Belgium's second penalty corner was blocked by the onrushing defender before India launched a series of attacks into the scoring zone. India's efforts for a goal saw them launch five raids into the rival circle in as many minutes before the interval, but the strikers seemed devoid of ideas after getting there.
Instead of trying to secure penalty corners, they kept pushing the ball in the the crowd of defenders who had fallen back to deny space inside the scoring zone.
Shivendra Singh, who continued to play a lacklustre game, had an opportunity to score just a minute before half-time. The ball bounced when his flick was blocked by the goalkeeper and he tried a wild swipe at the ball instead of controlling it.
India continued their exhibition of missed opportunities in the second session and even saw the Belgian goalkeeper using his raised stick to deflect Sandeep's rising penalty corner drag-flick in the 39th minute.
Boccard scored the second Belgian goal against the run of play on a breakaway move that saw the ball hitting a defender's foot. The umpire raised his fingers to award a penalty corner but did not blow the whistle to give advantage to the Belgian strikers.
Boccard beat the Indian goalkeeper with a reverse hit even as the defenders were looking at the umpire.
Going all out for a goal in the last 10 minutes, the Indian strikers thrice opened up the Belgian defence but there was no one to execute the final deflection, nor did they try to earn a penalty corner.
Just before the final hooter, Boon beat goalkeeper Chetri with a firm reverse hit that sounded the boards.
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