India have ended their 41-year wait for a hockey medal at the Tokyo Olympics. They beat four-time champions Germany 5-4 in a nail-biter of a bronze medal match on Thursday to win their first Games medal since the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Simranjeet Singh scored two field goals while Harmanpreet Singh and Hardik Singh scored from penalty corners. India went 3-1 down and then came back to level 3-3, all in the second quarter. Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty stroke which gave India the lead and completed their comeback after which Simranjeet scored their fifth.
India were looking down and out when they went 3-1 down in the 24th minute as a relentless Germany piled pressure on the eight-time champions. However, India kept their eyes open for counter-attacking opportunities. Harmanpreet was unable to convert a PC that India got two minutes after they went 3-1 down.
They got another two minutes later and this time, Hardik Singh converted to halve Germany's lead. Harmanpreet then converted a PC in the 29th minute and India equalised just four minutes after going 3-1 down. At half-time, the score was, incredibly, 3-3.
India seemed to start at where they left off in the third quarter and forced a penalty stroke. Rupinder made no mistakes with his strike and India took the lead. Five minutes later, Simranjeet scored his second of the match three minutes later to make it 5-3 in India's favour, which remained the score at the end of the third quarter.
Germany were not ready to give up without a fight though. Lukas Windfeder scored from a penalty corner in the 45th minute to take one back for the four-time champions, thus setting up a tense finish to the match. Mandeep got a one-on-one chance with the German goalkeeper in the 51st minute but he ended up taking the ball too far to the left. He had to take the shot from an acute angle in the end that the keeper saved.
Germany took off their goalkeeper with three minutes left on the clock. India managed to save a penalty corner in this period and another in the dying seconds of the match to seal the historic win.
Earlier in February this year, the Indian team played Germany in two back-to-back matches where they were able to put to test all the hard work that went in during the National Camps in SAI, Bengaluru. This was India's first tour since 2020 when the pandemic restricted their travel, and in the first match India beat Germany 6-1 and in the second match, they drew 1-1.
Indian men once ruled the Olympic hockey tournament, winning six successive golds from 1928 to 1956. When they claimed the top prize for an eighth time at the 1980 Moscow Games, no one could have guessed that they would have been left in Olympic wilderness for the next four decades.
However, In the last few years, the Indian team has achieved important milestones, including winning the Asia Cup in 2017, claiming the Asian Champions Trophy in 2018 as well as winning the FIH Series Final in 2019 over the past four years.
India also reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar and performed exceedingly well in the FIH Hockey Pro League under Manpreet before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the schedule.
Source: India Today