BHUBANESWAR, June 14: India outplayed reigning Asian Games champion Japan 7-2 to storm into the summit clash of the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament here on Friday, assuring themselves a place in the year end�s Olympic qualifying event.
Returning to the side after a long injury lay-off, Ramadeep Singh (23rd, 37th minutes) finally got his mojo back with a double strike, while Harmanpreet Singh (7th), Varun Kumar (14th), Hardik Singh (25th), Gursahibjit Singh (43rd) and Vivek Sagar Prasad (47) also registered their name on the scoresheet.
Japan�s goals were scored by Kenji Kitazato (2nd) and Kota Watanabe (20th).
India will face South Africa in Saturday�s final while Japan will square off against USA in the third-fourth place play-off match.
South Africa had earlier defeated USA 2-1 in the first semifinal.
For the first time in the tournament, the Indian defence was literally tested as world no. 18 Japan gave a good account of themselves in patches.
To the dismay of the home crowd, Japan took the lead in the second minute from a counter attack. Kitazato slammed home past Indian goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak after receiving a pass from Kenta Tanaka from their first attack.
The stunned Indians got their act together quickly and created a flurry of opportunities. Young Gursahibjit Singh was guilty of wasting a golden chance in the fifth minute from close range after he was beautifully set up by Nilkanta Sharma and Ramadeep. � PTI