The Indian men’s hockey team are on a comeback trail at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, with their latest 3-1 win over defending champions Argentina sealing a quarter final berth for the men in blue. India have boosted their medal chances by making it into the next stage of the tournament, with one league game against hosts Japan in hand.
Now, that’s how we start our day. 🇮🇳
Our third win of #Tokyo2020 and with that, we are guaranteed a top-two finish in Pool A. 💪#INDvARG #IndiaKaGame #HaiTayyar #TeamIndia #TokyoTogether #StrongerTogether #HockeyInvites #WeAreTeamIndia #Hockey pic.twitter.com/dIJEpYZxbc
— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) July 29, 2021
It was a dramatic end to the encounter against Argentina as the Indian outfit scored two goals in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter to seal the result. Vivek Prasad and Harmanpreet Singh handed India the advantage in the final minutes after Maico Casella had earlier cancelled Varun Kumar’s opener.
Team India earned no less than eight penalty corners against Argentina and were able to convert two of them through different drag flickers. They now have at least four options for the set piece and look a dangerous side heading into the knockout stages.
DYK? The only other time the Indian hockey team beat the defending #Olympic champion in the #OlympicGames was way back in 1964 also at Tokyo. India then beat the 1960 Rome #Olympics champion Pakistan 1-0 in the final.
Today Argentina 3-1#TokyoOlympics2020 #Tokyo2020 #Olympics
— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) July 29, 2021
But the journey till this point has not been a bed of roses for Manpreet Singh & Co. They fended off a tough Kiwi challenge in their opening game, to win 3-2 eventually. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh’s efforts in the final quarter helped his team to keep their noses ahead, and scrap through against the increasing threat from New Zealand.
The defense then had another poor outing against Australia, in the second league game. They were taken apart by the second-ranked Aussies 7-1, wherein the Indian team failed to put up even a shred of a challenge. Had it not been for Sreejesh, the score could well have been in double digits.
Simranjeet….that was neat! 🙌🏑#IND’s first goal against #ESP in their third #Hockey pool match put the team in a stylish early lead. 👏#BestOfTokyo | #Tokyo2020 | #StrongerTogether | #UnitedByEmotion pic.twitter.com/3EifN5gNAt
— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) July 27, 2021
At this point, the expectations had been lowered. The team’s form brought back memories from their horrid Olympics campaigns in the last few decades, especially with games against a tactically adept Spain and the defending champions Argentina to follow.
But a brace from Rupinder Pal ensured a solid performance in the 3-0 win over Spain to boos the morale in the camp. And the impressive 3-1 result against the South Americans has now completely changed the narrative.
— Rajesh Bhogavalli (@SOseetarama) July 29, 2021
Team India have nine points from four games and have ensured at least a second spot in Pool A regardless of their result against the bottom-placed Japan. With 12 points, Australia are currently top of the pool and are likely to retain the spot going into the quarters. Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands lead the race for the knockouts, in Pool B.
India’s journey so far has been reminiscent of Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Chak De! India,’ as the Indian women were drubbed by the Aussies in the initial stages of the tournament too. Ironically though, the Indian women have crashed out of a medal place in the ongoing Olympics; but there is still hope for the men to bring home glory.
Images: Twitter/Hockey India