After more than four decades of disappointment, Indian hockey have their moment in the sun, quite literally, as they defeated Germany 5-4 in the Bronze medal match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Thursday morning.
India, who were 1-3 down at one point, roared back to outscore Germany in a thrilling start to proceedings on Day 13 of the Tokyo Games.
India last won a hockey medal at the Olympics in 1980 in Moscow when they had won the last of their 8 Gold medals. The Bronze at Tokyo is India’s third in the history of the Olympic Games.
Once the final hooter sounded, India's players celebrated, cried and hugged each other as a long, long wait had just come to an end.
It was Germany who drew first blood at the Oi Stadium in Tokyo, with Timur Oruz scoring in as early as the 2nd minute scoring past PR Sreejesh. The more aggressive Germans overpowered the Indians physically and pegged the defenders back. India had Sreejesh to thank as he stood tall, making some very crucial saves in the first 15 minutes, keeping the dominant Germans at bay.
The quarter ended with a flurry of PCs for Germany, but India held on and kept the Germans from scoring a second.
After the break, it was India who started the better of the two sides with Nilakanta’s defence splitting pass finding Simranjeet’s brilliant run, who wasted no time in finishing that with a rasping drive to bring things back to level pegging. And while India looked to play their way into a position of strength, the Germans’ robust style wasn’t doing them any favours.
With 5 minutes left in the first half, India’s defense had two lapses in concentration and Germany scored on both occasions through Niklas Wellen and Benedikt Furk, extending the lead to 3-1, leaving Sreejesh fuming at his defenders.
The highly entertaining second quarter though had more drama in store as India counter attacked soon after and won a PC which paved the way for Hardik Singh to stab home after the German keeper saved the initial drive.
A couple of minutes later, India captain Manpreet was stick checked at the edge of the D, earning another PC, which Harmanpreet Singh rifled home, bringing the delicately balanced contest to 3-3 just before half time.
Already in the ascendancy, India started off quarter 3 in the best possible manner as Mandeep felt a push inside the D and won a penalty stroke, which was duly converted by Rupinderpal Singh, putting his team ahead at 4-3.
A couple of minutes later, India cranked up the ante a few notches as Gurjant hared down the right and set up Simranjeet, who pushed India into a 5-3 lead. Germany, who had dominated a major chunk of the first half, were under the pump and feeling heat on an already hot day in Tokyo.
Germany looked for a way back into the contest and India, who were on a roll, eyed more goals but neither could make a flurry of PCs count as the third quarter wound down with the team in blue well and truly in an advantageous position in the contest. When the hooter sounded for the penultimate time in the game, India stood 15 minutes from a historic medal – a first in the sport for the country at the Olympic Games since 1980 Moscow, when they won Gold.
In the final 15 minutes, India’s only objective was to keep Germany as far as possible from Sreejesh, but they earned a PC and Lukas Windfeder converted, keeping the contest on a knife edge at 5-4. Soon after though Germany was dealt a big blow when captain Tobias Hauke was shown a yellow card and had to sit out for at least 5 minutes.
Right after, Mandeep missed a chance to make it 6-4 when the German keeper came off the line to thwart the attempted tomahawk.
Germany, as expected, threw the kitchen sink at India in the final 10 odd minutes of the game but the Manpreet Singh led team took the body blows while defending their lead. In the final five minutes Germany took off their keeper as the last throw of the dice.
A few anxious moments followed for India as they defended a German PC before the hooter sounded and Indian players celebrated wildly after winning a 9-goal thriller and bagging the Bronze medal at the Oi Stadium in Tokyo.
. Read more on Hockey by The Quint.Day 13, Tokyo Olympics LIVE: Indian Men's Hockey Team Win Bronze After 49 yrs Indian Men's Team Create History; Win Hockey Bronze at Tokyo Olympics . Read more on Hockey by The Quint.