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India lost to Britain in olympic qualifier, Carvalho quits

For the first time in 80 years, India fails to qualify for the Olympics after its defeat to Britain in the final of the World Hockey qualifying tournament in Santiago.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Santiago
UPDATED ON MAR 10, 2008 01:06 PM IST

Indian hockey today sunk into its darkest pit of despair as the men's team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years following a shocking 0-2 defeat against Britain in the final of the qualifying tournament here.

Faced with a do-or-die battle, India's Olympic dream came down crashing as Barry Middleton (4th minute) and Richard Mantell (10th) scored for Britain in the nerve-wracking final at the Prince of Wales Country Club.

Eight times gold medallist India thus failed to make it to the Olympics for the first time since their debut in 1928, adding an ignominious chapter to the game's history which has seen more lows than highs in recent times.

The setback prompted coach Joaquim Carvalho to step down along with his support staff.

While Britain celebrated to the accompaniment of the song "We are the Champions", the Indian players, heads bowed and shoulders slumped, could only watch the jubilant scenes of a team that played smarter, if not better, hockey.

Britain showed a lot of steel in dealing with the massive pressure they were subjected to by the Indian forwards. The difference was that Britain, who had beaten India 3-2 in the league, capitalised on the two early chances that came their way, while the Indians did not.

India could never really settle down and the two yellow cards to their key players, midfielder Sardara Singh and forward Prabhjot Singh, filled their cup of woe.

India's proud record of having played in every Olympic Games men's field hockey tournament since 1928 came to a heartbreaking end on Sunday when they were beaten by Great Britain in Santiago.

The 2-0 loss in the crucial final qualifier meant that the Beijing Games in August will be missing the team which has won the men's hockey gold on eight occasions.

The defeat could also deliver a hammer blow with many in India believing that the sport will find it hard to recover from such a shattering loss.

Britain had already won the group game between the two sides 3-2 in a bruising encounter which saw three players reprimanded over their behaviour.

On Sunday, the British, gold medallists in 1988, had the game wrapped up after just ten minutes when they surged into a 2-0 lead that they were not to surrender.

Barry Middleton opened the scoring in the fourth minute from a pass by Ashley Jackson with Richard Mantell adding the second six minutes later with a deft flick.

India had plenty of opportunities to hit back with Prabhjot Singh and VR Raghunath coming close in the first half.

India, skippered by veteran Dilip Tirkey, dominated large parts of the second half and forced three penalty corners in quick succession just before the hour mark.

But their inability to score from even one of them proved decisive as Britain went on to celebrate an impressive win and their ticket to China.

India, who won an Olympic gold at the Western-boycotted Moscow Games in 1980, were forced to qualify for Beijing after missing an Asian Games medal for the first time in Qatar in 2006.

Eleven teams have now qualified for the Olympic men's competition with the one remaining spot coming from the last qualifying tournament in Japan.

The automatic qualifiers are Australia (Oceania champions), Belgium (European bronze medallists), Canada (Pan American champions), China (hosts), South Korea (Asian Games winners), the Netherlands (European champions), Pakistan (Asian Games bronze medallists), South Africa (African champions) and Spain (European silver medallists).

New Zealand ensured their berth by winning the qualifying tournament in Auckland.

World champions Germany failed to gain an automatic Olympic berth after losing to Belgium in the bronze medal match of the European championships.

The Germans must now win the third and final qualifying tournament in Japan in April that includes Malaysia, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the hosts.

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