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2020 Oly Qualifier
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India achieves OQ objective after Japan kill today (6/14/2019)
--s2h Team
Host India majestically made it to the Olympic Qualifier with a quality display against Japan in the semi-final of the FIH Open Finals in Bhubaneswar. India posted a heart warming 7-2 win to take its spot in the Sunday final. With this, it joined South Africa for the 14-team Olympic Qualifier to come off late in the year.


South Africa, who lost to the States in the opener, were almost in the same predicament today in the other semi-final before a gritty goal in the dying seconds tilted the scales. Its again the USA team that took the lead the same way they did in the Bhubaneswar opener against the African champions. However, controlled midfifeld play did not allow further leeway, a mistake that cost them the opener (0-2). Experienced player in the side Austin Smith, who is familiar with the Kalinga fans for being part of Hockey India League, did an encore three minutes before the end of third quarter.

The last quarter saw both teams giving their best. When it almost appeared the match will end in a draw, Nicolas Spooner came up with a gem of goal to give his side the Olympic Qualifier slot.

The other semifinal was not a thriller like the one in the first. It appeared initially there is a fight on hand for India. More so when Kenji Kitazato stunned India with an immaculate goal within 100 seconds of the start. Harmanpreet Singh five minutes later and Varun Kumar in the 14th minute struck a goal apiece to douse the Japan's early fires. Both were from penalty corner manouveres.

Indians went for the first 2-minute break with a goal lead. Japan pressed hard and got its dividends in the 20th minute with field goal from Kota Watanabe (2-2).

Egged on by the goody crowd, Indians pulled up their socks and did not allow any leeway to the Japanese, who are not contained. It was comeback kid Ramandeep Singh who proved to be Japan's undoing with hawkish eye on the ball. Fittingly, he posted a brace of goals, giving further hopes on his returning form. He lost most of Indian engagements last year after sustaining an ankle injury at London CT.

The two goal he has got, and the manner it was accomplished, must have given him the much needed relief, boasting his confidence.

In the 25 minutes space after Ramandeep's first goal in the 23 minute, India added another another four goals to fill the Cup of woes for the Japan. Japan have any way qualified for the Tokyo Olympics being the hosts and also by winning the Asian Games hockey chapter.

Vivek Prasad, Gursahibjit Singh and Hardik Singh are the other scorers for India.

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