India off to a flying start in Olympic qualifiers

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{image-indian hockey_02032008.jpg}New Delhi, March 2: India began thier campaign in the World Hockey Olympic qualifying tournament with an 8-0 thrashing of Russia at a qualifying tournament in Chile on Saturday.

Indian forward Prabhjot Singh scored three goals against Russia, who were a late replacement for Bangladesh in the tournament in Santiago.But it was Dilip Tirkey who was first on the scoresheet with a 14th minute penalty corner before Prabhjot grabbed his first of the day five minutes later scoring off a pass from Sardar Singh.On the half-hour mark, India were 3-0 ahead with Prabhjot notching his second before Shivendra Singh made it 4-0 at the interval.

Tushar Khandekar added the fifth as the Russian defence began to wilt early in the second half before Sardar, with his second of the match, VR Raghunath and Prabhjot completed the rout.

India have never missed the Olympics since field hockey was introduced as a medal sport in 1928.

Austria and Chile make up the six-nation tournament here which runs until March 9.

Former Olympic champions Britain, who are expected to meet India in the final of the tournament next week, also had an impressive win with an 11-0 thrashing of Mexico with Simon Mantell and Mat Daly scoring two goals each.

Ten teams have already qualified for the Olympic men's competition with the remaining two coming from the qualifying tournament here and the next one in Japan in April.

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