On the world stage, India had long ceased to be one of the champion hockey teams. But now even its claim of being a top Asian team is lost.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw against title holder South Korea in the last preliminary round match means India have failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the Asian Games men's field hockey for the first time.
The hockey team had made it to the Asiad gold medal clash on 11 of the past 12 occasions, winning the title in 1966 and 1998. The only time India missed the final was at Seoul in 1986 when they claimed the bronze behind South Korea and Pakistan. India dominated the match after conceding a goal in the 41st minute -- with V. Raghunath scoring the equaliser in the 56th minute. But the team failed to convert the chances that came its way in the last few minutes. Chief coach Vasudevan Baskaran said: “We are disappointed. Had we played like this against China, we would have been in the semi-finals.” India had been upset 2-3 by China earlier.
Captain Dilip Tirkey said: "We paid dearly for losing our match against China; that was the turning point for us. We played a good match against South Korea, but victory eluded us."
South Korea topped the Group B standings with 10 points from four matches, followed by China with nine points and India on seven points. Oman and Bangladesh were the other teams in the group. In March, India failed to make the semifinals of the Commonwealth Games and then finished 11th out of 12 teams in the World Cup in September.
The Doha failure also puts a question mark over whether India will qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games. The top two teams from the Asian Games will qualify automatically -- but India will have to win at least one of the three qualifying tournaments to be held in Chile, Japan and New Zealand in early 2008.