Antwerp: India's defence caved in under pressure as a rampaging Australia crushed them 6-2 in the last league fixture of the FIH World League Semifinals in Antwerp on Sunday.
Penalty corner shooter Chris Ciriello's three conversions set World champions Australia on course for a runaway victory that duly placed them atop Group A standings with four straight wins, while India finished in second spot with seven points from four matches.
Birender Lakra (34th minute) and Ramandeep Singh (51st) reduced the defeat margin for India in the match, which dominated by the world number one side.
Pakistan finished third in the group after squandering a penalty stroke and missing chances galore in open play to be held to a 2-2 draw by France.
In the closing stages, it was France who were pressing hard for an elusive winner that could have lifted them above Pakistan in the group standings.
In the quarterfinals, India seem set to play Malaysia, who lost 1-3 to Great Britain after leading at half-time. But Group B positions could all change dramatically if Ireland are able to defeat hosts Belgium in the last of the league matches later today.
The quarterfinal lineup will only be determined after the Belgium-Ireland encounter later in the evening.
Pakistan also had a chance today to go ahead of India had they defeated France by a big margin, and then waited for top-ranked Australia to hand down a sound defeat to India.
All those permutations were dashed by France's fine show this morning.
Australia opened the scoring in the eighth minute, capitalising on the slow reaction of the Indian defenders after a foul on top of their circle. The Indian defenders were still to get into positions when Jamie Dwyer saw an opening and sent a crisp square ball to Aran Zalewski, whose flash strike saw Australia off the mark.
India first had a look at the Australian goal in the 13th minute when Devindar Walmiki's fine run took him into the circle from left, but he could not produce a good shot in the crowded goalmouth.
A minute later, Dwyer increased the Australian lead when he darted alone into the circle and created space by moving sideways before defeating goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh with a firm reverse hit into the net.
A penalty corner strike by Ciriello, his first of the match, gave Australia their third goal in the 26th minute.
Ciriello's initial shot, a lot flick, was padded back by the custodian and he made no mistake in placing it into the left corner of the boards.
Ciriello got his second goal three minutes into the second half when his shot deflected off onrushing defender Manpreet Singh into the left corner of the goal.
India pulled one goal back in the 34th minute on their first penalty corner. The rising drag-flick by Jasjit Singh was palmed by Australian custodian Tyril Lovell, but Birendra Lakra capitalised on the rebound to score with a reverse shot.
Kieran Govers flicked the ball home from the goalkeeper's feet in goalmouth scrimmage in the 43rd minute and Ciriello returned to goal-scoring action with his third penalty corner conversion in the 44th minute to make it 6-1.
India managed to create some decent moves in the last stages of the match and were rewarded with their second goal on a move created by captain Sardar Singh.
Picking up Sardar's pass, Dharamvir Singh moved into the circle and sent a cross for Ramandeep Singh to deflect into the goal.