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Olympic qualifiers: France stay in hunt, Canada crash out

New Delhi, Feb 24 - France brightened their chances of qualifying for the London Olympics after they come from behind for a 1-1 draw against higher-ranked Canada in the men's hockey Olympic qualifiers here Friday. The north Americans crashed out of the tournament.

France, who are now second on the points table with 10 points, hope that hosts and table toppers India will do them a favour by beating Poland in the last match of the day. But in case of a draw, France and Poland will be tied with 10 points and the Polish team will go through the final on the basis of a better goal difference.

A win would have taken World No.14 Canada to the final.

For World No.18 France, whose last Olympic appearance was in 1972 Munich, the win lifted the spirit in the camp that was saddened with the news of passing of Christophe Genestet, the father of three players Martin, Tom and Hugo.

It was Canada, who drew first blood at the stroke of half-time after a swift combination with Jesse Watson, Ken Pereira and Rob Short and Iain Smythe slotted it in.

France fought back strongly in the second half and completely dominated the game in the last 20 minutes and the Canadian defence cracked under relentless attack.

France finally found the equaliser in the 56th minute after Fabien Magner broke through the Canadian defences and beat David Carter from close range.

France could have well won the match but were disallowed a goal from penalty corner through Frederic Verrier in the second half since the shot was too high. Tempers were frayed and Verrier was green carded for pushing the umpire.

In their desperate attempt to break the deadlock, Canada let their guard down but Carter made some brilliant saves to thwart attempts from Genestet brothers Martin and Hugo and then from Simon Martin-Brisac.



-IANS


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