The India men’s hockey team ended a 41-year wait for an Olympic medal by clinching bronze at the Tokyo Games on Thursday.
In the third-place play-off at the Oi Stadium in Tokyo, India, which breathed fire in the second and third quarters, got the better of Germany 5-4. It is to be noted that the Graham Reid-coached India struck its five goals in a span of just 17 minutes. India had last won a medal – gold – under the leadership of V Baskaran at the Moscow Games way back in 1980.
Simranjeet Singh (17th minute and 34th) struck a brace for the victor on Thursday while Hardik Singh (27th), Harmanpreet Singh (29th) and Rupinder Pal Singh (31st) got a goal apiece for the Manpreet Singh-led team. Timur Oruz (2nd), Niklas Wellen (24th), Benedikt Furk (25th) and Lukas Windfeder (48th) were on the scoresheet for Germany.
India got off to the worst possible start in the duel as Germany broke the deadlock in just the second minute. Timur Oruz got on the end of a German move and sounded the board from close range. The 2016 bronze medallist earned a flurry of penalty corners at the end of the first period, but couldn’t extend its advantage.
India responded well in the second quarter, which was not short of action and saw five goals. Following a fine piece of work by Nilakanta Sharma in the middle of the field, Simranjeet Singh equalised for India in the 17th minute with a fantastic reverse flick.
But, Germany pulled clear a few minutes later with strikes from Niklas Wellen and Benedikt Furk in the 24th and 25th minute respectively. Trailing 1-3, India produced a stunning comeback in the final minutes of the first half and made full use of a couple of penalty corners.
First, India pulled a goal back in the 27th minute via Hardik Singh, who tapped the ball home following a rebound. Germany goalkeeper Alexander Stadler had initially saved Harmanpreet Singh’s drag-flick. The latter was not to be denied two minutes later as he levelled the scores at 3-3 by converting a penalty corner.
The teams were locked at 3-3 while heading for the half-time interval. India continued in the same vein in the third quarter, sounding the board twice in the first five minutes. In the 31st minute, Rupinder Pal Singh made no mistake while taking a penalty stroke as Germany lost its only TV referral for the match.
Three minutes later, Simranjeet struck his second goal of the fixture after getting on the end of a pass from Sumit, who made a probing run from midfield. At the conclusion of the third quarter, India was 5-3 ahead and 15 minutes away from scripting history.
Down by two goals, Germany began the final period with a penalty corner conversion by Lukas Windfeder in the 48th minute. But, the Indian defence held on to the slender one-goal advantage in the last few minutes to bring a medal home.