London: India’s hopes of qualifying for the title clash hung in balance as they succumbed 2-4 to world champions Australia in their last league outing of the 36th Hero Champions Trophy Hockey on Thursday.
India’s two goals came from penalty corner shooter VR Raghunath and striker Mandeep Singh, but it was too late to cause any threat to Australia, who had gained a stranglehold through strikes from Trent Mitton, Aran Zalewski, Flynn Ogilvie and Tristian White.
Australia topped the league standings with 13 points from five matches, while India finished on seven points and now await the result of the Great Britain-Belgium encounter to know if they will feature in the final or the bronze medal match tomorrow.
India needed a victory today to secure a place in the final against Australia, who were already assured of the top spot in the standings ahead of this fixture.
India’s chances of making their first entry into the Champions Trophy final depend of the result of the Great Britain match against Belgium, both of whom can overtake India in the standings.
Britain, on five points, need a victory to get the second spot in the round-robin league. Belgium can come level with India on points if they win the last match, which will bring them level with India on points. Then the goal difference will come into play.
A draw in the Britain-Belgium match will leave India in the second place, giving them a place in the final.
India pulled all 11 players into their own circle in the first quarter and succeeded in denying the rival strikers too much space or time to pose much danger.
It was in the second quarter, when the Indian defenders erred in conceding too much space in their territory that Australia mounted the pressure and succeeded in scoring twice through penalty corner conversions.
India did not have a single shot at the Australian goal in the first half and started their fightback too late to be able to change the result.
At the start, the Indians were content on defending their own territory and did not move up until the seventh minute, when overlapping striker Surender Kumar sent a cross into the right from the right flank. The Australian defenders kept their composure and the ball was cleared by the goalkeeper without an Indian striker coming into the frame.