Indian finally tasted some success in the FIH men’s World League Round 3 when they defeated lower-ranked France 6-2 to qualify for the fifth-sixth positions play-off, in Rotterdam, on Friday.
The 11th-ranked Indians, who came into the match without a victory under their belt, scored thrice in each half in their first classification game against a team placed six rungs behind them.
Their goals came from the sticks of Akashdeep Singh (13th minute), vice-captain V R Raghunath (27th), S V Sunil (33rd), captain Sardar Singh (42nd) and Mandeep Singh (56th, 69th).
For France, Hugo Genestet scored from a field effort in the third minute while their second came from a penalty-corner by Guillaume Deront in the final minute of the game.
India will now play seventh-ranked Spain in the fifth-sixth place play-off match on Sunday.
Spain eked out a 1-0 win over Ireland in another classification match earlier in the day.
Contrary to the result, the Frenchmen stunned India when Genestet scored a field goal early into the match.
The fragile Indian defence was once again at the receiving end and it could have been worse for Michael Nobbs’s boys had France converted two penalty-corners that came their way early in the first half.
Rattled by France's early onslaught, the Indians got their act together soon and drew parity when Akashdeep scored from a rebound.
India went ahead in the 27th minute through Raghunath, who converted the team's first penalty-corner, before Sunil made it 3-1 six minutes later after combining well with Chinglensana Singh on the right flank.
After the change of ends, skipper Sadar Singh extended India's lead deflecting in Dharamvir Singh's free hit.
Young striker Mandeep scored his first goal of the day, deflecting in a backhand cross from Dharamvir in the 56th minute. He was yet again in the thick of things in the penultimate minute of the game, gently taping in Sunil's diagonal cross from close range.
France earned as many as five penalty-corners in the second half but scored from just one through Deront, that too in the dying stages of the game.
Image: Sardar Singh
Photograph: Will Russell/Getty Images