Skipper Dilip Tirkey slammed in three penalty corner goals as two-time champion India launched its Asian Games men's field hockey campaign with a 6-0 victory Monday against Bangladesh.
Fielding a young team after the World Cup debacle in Germany three months ago, where it finished 11th of 12 teams, India is seeking to reclaim the title it last won in 1998 at Bangkok. The Asian Games finalists will get direct entry in the lineup for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and avoid the prospect of playing in a qualifying competition.
China, which automatically gets a place in the Beijing Olympic lineup, rode on four goals from captain Song Yi to start with a 6-1 victory against Oman.
China's first major test will come in Tuesday's Group B match against India. This preliminary group also includes reigning champion South Korea, which is seeking its fourth Asian Games title since breaking the sub continental monopoly of men's field hockey in 1986. "It was a good start, but we need to sharpen our goal scoring ability in open field play," said Tirkey. "We allowed a few goal-scoring chances to go waste."
Tirkey's backup penalty corner shooter Vokkaliga Ragunath scored one goal, while the two field goals coming from Shivendra Singh and Adam Sinclair.
"The strikers did not play to their ability, but hopefully they'll do better as the tournament goes on," said Tirkey. Coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran said the strikers need to get into their rhythm quickly.
"One's got to take into account the way Bangladesh crowded its defense, they never tried to attack even once," said Bhaskaran, who was national team captain in 1980 when India won the last of its eight Olympic gold medals.
Bhaskaran has been put on notice by the Indian hockey bosses after his team fared badly in the World Cup.
Chinese captain Song scored the first four goals, starting the spree with a penalty stroke conversion.
He went on to score twice with penalty corner shots and then beat Oman goalkeeper Asim Dawood with a deft flick in open play. Strikers Yu Yang and Na Yubo made one flash strike each to round off the Chinese tally, while Sameer Hulis salvaged some Omani pride by pulling one goal back.