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  India men, women book tickets to Tokyo Olympics
,02 Nov 2019 ()

India secured tickets for both men and women hockey events of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, putting up contrasting performances in the double-leg FIH Olympic Qualifiers, which concluded here at Kalinga Stadium today.

Indian men ensured it was a double home celebration in Bhubaneswar by overpowering Russia 7-1 in their second leg match, a result which gave them an 11-3 victory on aggregate. The home favourites conceded inside the opening 25 seconds as Russia closed the aggregate score-line to 4-3, but India moved through the gears to claim an emphatic win and seal their place at Tokyo 2020.

Indian men (World Ranking: 5) endured a difficult start to their second leg match, with Alexey Sobolevskiy scoring just 25 seconds into the contest and moving Russia (WR: 22) to within one goal of their opponents. Despite the early set-back and their aggregate lead cut to 4-3, India bounced back in style to win the match 7-1 eventually.

The hosts scored three times in the second quarter thanks to Lalit Upadhyay – who was celebrating his 100th international cap today – and a double from Akashdeep Singh, putting India into a 3-1 lead. The Russian goal was breached on four occasions after half time with Nilakanta Sharma and Rupinder Singh (3) confirming that the eight-times Olympic champions will indeed be present at Tokyo 2020.

Indian women came into their second leg match against USA with what looked like an unassailable 5-1 advantage, but a brilliant first half performance saw the Americans score four times without reply to level the aggregate score at 5-5 against the hosts. However, a field goal from captain Rani Rampal in the final quarter gave India a 6-5 aggregate victory to break the hearts of a USA team that produced a truly monumental away performance.

A remarkable first half performance saw USA (WR: 13) cancel out India`s (WR: 9) 5-1 aggregate lead by scoring four times without reply to tie the match at half-time. Amanda Magadan netted two superb goals with team captain Kathleen Sharkey and Alyssa Parker also on target as the visiting Americans overwhelmed their opponents with a scintillating display.

Following some half-time words of guidance from head coach Sjoerd Marijne, India were vastly improved after the break as both teams chased the goal that would send them to Tokyo. The winner arrived 12 minutes from time thanks to a terrific finish from India captain Rani Rampal, who fired high into the net after a goal-mouth scramble. USA almost pulled off a miracle in Bhubaneswar, but it is India who claimed the ticket to the Olympiad.


India (Lalit Upadhyay 17-FG, Akashdeep Singh 23-PC, 29-FG; Nilakanta Sharma 47-FG, Rupinder Pal Singh 48-PC, 59-PC, 60+PC) beat Russia (Alexey Starienko 1-FG) 7-1.
WOMEN: India (Rani Rampal 48-FG) lost to USA (Amanda Magadan 5-PC, 28-FG; Kathleen Sharkey 14-FG, Alyssa Parker 20-FG) 1-4.
PHOTO: Players of Indian women team celebrate after beating USA in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in Bhubaneswar on 3 November2019.



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