India qualify for men's hockey in London

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Eight-time champions India secured their place in the men's hockey event at this year's London Olympics after routing France 8-1 in the final of a qualifying tournament on Sunday.

Drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continued his goal-scoring spree, slotting five more in the final as India, who won the last of their eight gold medals in 1980, returned to the Olympics after missing Beijing in 2008.

South Africa qualified for the women's event, having beaten hosts India 3-1 in Saturday's final at the same Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

The Indian women's team returned to join the country's sports minister and a host of former Olympians to cheer for their male compatriots, who did not let them down.

India went to the final with an unbeaten record, having scored 36 goals in the first five games, and they went on to better their 6-2 victory against the Frenchmen in Tuesday's pool match.

India opened their account with Birender Lakra's 17th minute strike but France did well to restrict them to 3-1 at half time.

Singh, having scored from two penalty corners in the first half, returned to convert three more to enhance his reputation as a leading drag-flick expert and finish with 16 goals from six matches.

Simon Martin-Brisac scored the lone goal for the French side while S.V. Sunil and V.R.Raghunath were India's other goal-getters.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Alan Baldwin)