Final whistle and India edge past France. It was a thrilling encounter... certainly much closer than we expected.
GOAL!! Sardar cuts past two midfielders and splits the defence with a fine pass -- it results in chaos in the French box and a shot from India -- the rebound from the save is to Ramandeep and he doesn't make any mistake with 100 seconds left. 3-2!
PC to India with 5 minutes left but Jasjit has put it just past the top corner! Phew that was close!
Eight minutes to go before full time and France are playing on the break. India have assumed a more patient probing approach as they look for a winner.
GOAL! Tell you what! France have levelled with a shot as Martin Brisac reacts quickly to a loose ball after a France attacker was challenged at the edge of the scoring area. 2-2 now! Two minutes left in Q3.
Oh my word Sreejesh! He comes off the line to block the marker on the left channel and when the challenge misses, he dives to the right to block a goalward shot. Superb.
At halftime, @TheHockeyIndia lead France 2-1 But France are NO pushovers. It's surely not a team we beat 7-1 in Delhi years ago #DilSeHockey
Nine minutes to go in Q3 and Davindar concedes a PC by pushing the ball into the feet of his own player - France get two as Manpreet blocks the first one with his feet but neither go in. The second one was pushed wide.
Q3 is up and running.
What a fine debut for Davindar in a senior tournament, right? India were pushing and the attacks were thick and fast - it's just that the right man in the right place was missing. Davindar was that man and he marks the occasion with a fine goal. 2-1 at HT.
GOAL!!!! Davindar with an unstoppable shot that goes in and off the post. Dharamvir squared and Davindar didn't take more than a second to react to that ball. 2-1 to India now!
GOAL! Manpreet again - and this time he goes low and hard and to the keeper's right. That's in. 1-1. Three minutes left in Q2.
PC! Sardar waits but Manpreet gets it and it's saved. Howeve, another PC is awarded.
Wow, Sanchez is at the receiving end of a rebound off Sreejesh but he cannot divert it in. Great chance for France to double their lead. Five minutes left in Q2.
More than 50 percent of India's attacks have come down the right and this time Satbir gets forward and pumps in a low hard cross but there's no one to stick it into the net. 7 minutes to go in Q2.
Manpreet runs away down the right and puts it square for Ramandeep - the striker takes a look and is getting closed down quickly as he shoots - it's just wide and high. 11 minutes to go in Q2
Ooh Jasjit has the ball in the goal but it takes no deflection - Indian fans at the stadium make a lot of noise before it dies down in realisation of the rule. 13 minutes of Q2 remain.
That's the end of the first quarter. France have been surprisingly good - maybe taken India by surprise.
Just less than a minute left and Lyon gets a loose ball in his path near goal - his attempt is ridiculously miscued and the chance goes to waste. It's still France 1-0 India.
India getting frustrated by the amount of men behind for France. They're penetrating, yes, but that final pass seems to either get intercepted or a runner goes too far with the ball. India are playing an urgent, short passing game to get back into this one. 5 minutes to go in this quarter
Akashdeep crosses in and India get a shot off but France's keeper is on hand to cut the danger out. Half chance certainly. Eight minutes to go in the first quarter.
France SCORE! Sanchez the man who gets a lucky flick back and smacks it in without any pressure at all. Who is closing him down?
And we're off!!
India line up in a 4-3-3. The two teams have just walked out.
This team is the most professional Indian team that I've been part of, says skipper Sardar Singh
India will look to experiment in this match — Rupinder Pal Singh is sitting this match out. However, that's not something Van Ass is trying -- the player slipped during training and is out due to injury.
Indian hockey players are camera shy. Look at them when the coach introduces them
Following a relatively long break, the Sardar Singh-led Indian hockey team will begin their campaign with more than a point to prove when they take on World No.18 France in their Pool A opener of the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final on June 20.
Preview: Already assured of a place in next year's Rio Olympics, a relaxed Indian men's hockey team would look to experiment with its strategies in the FIH World League Semifinal where it takes on a lowly France in the side's tournament opener on Saturday.
The Hockey World League (HWL) Semifinal in the Belgian city of Antwerp, hosting its first major international hockey tournament since the 1920 Olympics, offers direct entry to the 2016 Olympics for three teams each in the men and women's competitions.
Under the stewardship of new chief coach Paul van Ass, the Indian men's team has the rare luxury of trying out new strategies in a major international event. AFP
The Indian men's team is the only one in this tournament, which includes reigning World Champions Australia besides former Olympic champions Pakistan and Great Britain, to have already secured its passage to Rio by virtue of winning the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games last year.
Under the stewardship of new chief coach Paul van Ass, the Indian men's team has the rare luxury of trying out new strategies in a major international event.
Van Ass acknowledged that India is now able to match the pace set by the rivals, but his wards need to bolster their ability of setting the pace to suit their game plan.
"When fit enough, the Indian players are quite good when the rivals make the pace of the contest, but they need to learn to dictate the flow of the contest," said Van Ass, who took charge of the Indian team two months ago ahead of the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, where the team won the bronze medal.
"We need to be much better in making the speed of the game," said the Dutchman, adding that the team also needs to be more coordinated when defending its own goal.
"Defending as a group is important. It is a structure story about getting the angles right."
India's qualification for the Olympic Games has provided Van Ass, a former Dutch national coach, some time to implement his strategy and assess the abilities of the players available to him, although a few injuries during the training camp ahead of the Belgian sojourn has been a disappointment.
Three late changes were made to the Indian squad for the World League Semifinals.
India's path to the semifinal here is blocked by Australia, thrice World Cup holders, and arch-rivals Pakistan, beside Poland and France.
The French are India's opening day rivals, who have grown in strength in recent years.
"I hope our training on creating early pressure will be evident when we go into the competition," said Van Ass.
Having got a feel of France's ability in a warm-up game here early their week, India captain Sardar Singh said: "We'll go out to exert early pressure and retain maximum possession."
It was a runaway victory over France in the qualification tournament's final that secured India's passage to the 2012 Olympic Games, which then turned out to be an embarrassment as the Indians finished at the bottom of the 12-team event in London.
Three spots from each of the World League Semifinals are on offer for the Olympic Games, but even some positions outside the semifinals have realistic chances of making it to the 2016 Olympics. The multiple qualification routes that allocate five spots to continental tournaments can have some teams securing dual Olympic qualification, and that could allow even teams placed fifth or sixth in the World League Semifinals to make it to Rio. (PTI)