It was a very different match-up between the Olympic bronze medallists India and a renewed France side. France’s impenetrable defence powered the team to a 5-2 win, after taking Netherlands to a 2-2 tie just days earlier.
Victor Charlet led in scoring with a pocket of set pieces, while Viktor Lockwood, Charles Masson and Timothée Clément also got on the scoresheet. Penalty strokes from Jarmanpreet Singh and Harmanpreet Singh were all India could muster despite 13 penalty corner attempts.
France bench boss Frederic Soyez said before the first game, a 5-0 loss, his team had landed just 48 hours earlier and had just two training sessions. Now was the time France could show it’s true potential.
Following the win, French captain Gaspard Baumgarten said: “After our first game we did a lot of video analysis because a lot went wrong. So, we created a game plan to do better. The most successful part of that game plan was the defence. I think the defence was terrific today.”
After an opening quarter with little offensive action, a long aerial ball sprung Clement from half-field and Amit Rohidas was unable to contain him. The move led to a penalty stroke which Charlet converted to give France the lead.
India responded within the minute. A brilliant midfield transfer found the stick of Jarmanpreet Singh whose pass intended for Sumit ricocheted off defender Stanislas Branicki’s stick and in to level the game.
It was a fast-paced and energetic third and fourth quarter that included several India penalty-corners. The French defensive battery was outstanding with goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry getting a pad on the few chances that did squeeze past the brave and charging Charlet.
France found the lead again in the 35th minute when Baumgarten’s quick free pass found its way to Lockwood on the left baseline. Lockwood crafted his way through the Indian defence and powerfully struck a tight-angled shot out of the air and through the legs of PR Sreejesh.
“It was crazy, I don’t really strike on anything but my reverse, so that was a surprise,” Lockwood said. “We had a difficult first game but now we are in the competition. We brought a lot of energy which made up for lack of prep.”
India seemed to be doing everything they needed to find an equalizer, but their penalty corner unit could not find a way.
Charlet ran down three-straight Harmanpreet flicks that lead to France pushing forward for a penalty corner of their own.
Then Clement’s low flick in the 48th minute was effortlessly redirected in by Masson for another French goal.
On India’s 13th penalty-corner attempt, a missed trap at the top of the circle sent France on a charging counterattack. Baumgarten earned the penalty-corner, and Charlet rocketed home over substitute goalkeeper Krishan Pathak for a 4-2 lead.
It was chaos for India as a sideline turnover led to playful passing play between Francois Blaise Rogeau, Francois Goyet and eventual scorer Clement to seal the 5-2 victory.
Speaking ahead of the game, India head coach Graham Reid said that France would be posing a very different threat than in their previous encounter. France now enjoy their first three points in the Pro League, giving India their first loss of the campaign.
India’s next game is on February 13, against hosts South Africa at 21:30 hrs IST.
FIH Men’s Hockey Pro League Results:
Saturday, 12 February 2022 – Potchefstroom (RSA) and Buenos Aires (ARG)
France 5-2 India
Player of the Match: Viktor Lockwood (FRA)
South Africa 2-6 Netherlands
Player of the Match: Dennis Warmerdam (NED)
Argentina 2-1 Belgium
Player of the Match: Agustin Bugallo (ARG)
Women’s match: Argentina 3-1 Belgium
Player of the Match: Maria Granatto (ARG)
Matches will be live on Star Sports Select 2 and Star Sports Select 2 HD. Matches will also be shown live on Hotstar.