Indian women team's hopes of qualifying for the London Olympics went up in smoke after suffering a crushing 1-3 defeat against top-ranked South Africa in the finals of hockey qualifiers, on New Delhi on Saturday.
World number 12 South Africa scored through Shelley Russell (4th minute), Pietie Coetzee (30th) and skipper Marsha Marescia (57th) to qualify for the London Olympics.
They remained unbeaten run in the tournament and had defeated India 5-2 in the league stage.
India paid the price for their defence lapses and lack of finishing as South Africa rode on their better co-ordination, agility and solid defence to crush the hosts at their home ground.
India conceded an early goal in the fourth minute with Ritu Rani being the culprit as she failed to clear the ball from a back pass inside the D in the left flank, allowing Shelley Russell to steal it and comfortably slot it home.
Stung by the goal, India tried to attack from the left flank with Anuradha Devi Thokchom, who was back after missing two matches due to a hamstring injury, being in the action but they failed to penetrate the South African defence.
The Indians crumbled under pressure as they fumbled with the ball and lacked co-ordination. Even though they penetrated the rival camp, the hosts failed to build a single concrete attack.
India earned their first penalty corner in the 10th minute but Sushila Chanu failed to stop the ball cleanly to squander the opportunity.
South Africa then earned three short corners in the space of six minutes between 23rd and 29th minute, and the visitors made use of the third with the experienced Pietie Coetzee sounding the board with a direct hit.
India came out with all guns blazing in the second half and made regular forays into the rival camp in the first 10 minutes. India came close to scoring when skipper Asunta Lakra made a direct hit from the center but a diving Anuradha failed to connect.
After a couple of minutes, Anuradha was once again in action when she was in an one-to-one situation with South African goalkeeper Mix Mariette but she hit it straight to her.
In the 40th minute, South Africa earned their fourth PC but Joydeep Kaur and Chanu cleared the ball successfully.
However, the visitors piled on agony on India once again when skipper Marsha deflected Coetzee's grounded flick on South Africa's fifth penalty corner in the 53rd minute to almost seal the match.
India scored a consolation goal in the 56th minute with Jaspreet Kaur converting a short corner with a powerful sweep.
The Indians tried to create pressure on South Africa but they failed to penetrate the rival defence.
India thus had to settle for the silver to continue their 32-year-old jinx of not qualifying for the Olympics. Indian eves had played in the Olympics in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the year the game was introduced, on an invitational basis.
Earlier in the day, Italy won the bronze medal after beating Ukraine 2-1, while Canada finished at the fifth position after notching up a 3-0 victory over Poland.