France are considered one of the rapidly-improving sides in the world – many might have thought that perhaps they are an over-hyped side given their listless 0-5 defeat to India in the first encounter. Les Blues showed against the Netherlands in their next game why they are talked about so highly as they held the Dutch 2-2 in regulation time before going down in the penalty shootout.
France never looked like a world number 12 outfit and they clearly looked a vastly transformed side against India in their second tie as they tightened up their lines and did not allow India to play their free-flowing game. The win was France’s first against India in 17 years – their last win came at the 2004 Test Series. Both teams had settled for a 2-2 draw in 2010 – at the 2015 Hockey World League Semifinal Round in Antwerpt, France had narrowly lost to India 2-3.
The opening quarter was more about both teams getting a measure of each other – Timothee Clement – one of the finds of France 2021 Junior World Cup triumph – earned a penalty stroke early in the second quarter when he was fouled by Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak after he had darted down the centre – burly skipper Victor Charlet slammed home the stroke to break the logjam.
Jarmanpreet Singh swung fortunes in India’s way later in the quarter when his flick from the right clipped the stick of Stanislas Branicki even Sumit was awaiting for a tap-in. Both teams did share the honours at half-time but France did not let the initiative slip from their grasp as they regained the lead via Viktor Lockwood, who put the ball between PR Sreejesh’s legs off a superb Gaspard Baumgarten pass from the left. It wasn’t one-way traffic as India mounted a plethora of penalty corners in the closing stages of the third quarter but France goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry stood like a rock of gibraltor and kept foiling Indian raids much to their frustration.
India needed a robust start to the final quarter but all their plans went awry as France stepped on the gas and extended their lead as Charles Masson defleted a smartly taken short corner by Timothy Clement. Harmanpreet Singh, who was disappointing with his short corners, converted a stroke that was engineered by Gursahibjit Singh. Poor short corner trapping in crucial moments cost India dearly as they muffed up close to dozen PCs.
The Frederic Soyez-coached French side did not quite had to run down the clock as they struck twice in the final thirty seconds – first off a PC by Victor Charlet and the final nail in the Indian coffin by off a Blaise Rogeau off a Timothee Clement pass. France have exacted sweet revenge for their earlier 0-5 defeat and would be high on confidence when they square up against the Netherlands – India will have to quickly regroup for the next game against hosts South Africa.