The hopes of the Indian women's hockey team of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics were virtually dashed as they went down 2-3 to Belgium in a roundrobin encounter of the qualifiers in Kazan on Tuesday.
The Indians, who needed to win all the three remaining group matches after losing to the Netherlands Antilles in the second match to be sure of a berth in the final, have themselves to blame. They were definitely the better side on view, but squandered numerous scoring chances. India will now have to hope for a miracle to take them into Sunday's final.
Though the Indians started the tournament with a comfortable 3-1 victory over hosts Russia in their opening match, their back-to-back losses have left them with little room for a comeback.
For all their dominance, the Mamata Kharab-led Indian team could not translate their superiority into goal whereas Belgium scored the goals that mattered, even though their patches of brilliance were few and far between.
Belgium opened the scoring in the very first minute of the match through Charlotte de Vos.
Surinder Kaur then levelled the scores in the 13th minute through a penalty-corner conversion and Ritu Rani scored a beautiful field goal in the 16th minute to put India in lead.
India went into the break leading 2-1, but they could have scored more goals but for some splendid goalkeeping by Elizabeth Achten.
Though Indians were in control on resumption, the Belgians equalised against the run of play in the 46th minute through Astrid Vervaet. Twelve minute later, Gaelle Valcke scored the all-important goal and the Indians were left struggling to catch up.
It was again India's poor penalty-corner conversion that let them down.
The US are at the top of the table with nine points, followed by Netherlands Antilles.
India find themselves in the fourth position in the six-nation qualifiers with three points from three games, while Belgium has six points from as many matches to be in third position.