India win first hockey Olympic medal in 41 years, beat Germany 5-4 for bronze
The Indian men's hockey team has won bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after beating Germany 5-4 at the Oi Hockey Stadium on Thursday. This is India's first Olympic medal in hockey in 41 years after having won their last medal way back in 1980.
India started the game on the backfoot and Germany was on hand to capitalize on the given opportunity. The team in white took an early lead through Timur Oritz and Simranjeet Singh equalized for India. Back-to-back goals for Germany put India under the pressure, but the team, led by Manpreet Singh showed grit to come back from being 3-1 down to win the game 5-4.
"It's been one of the signatures we have been trying, you know making a comeback," said the Indian coach Graham Reid after the match.
"The team did that very well today. There are a number of emotions right and for me personally, it's a great feeling to be here," he added.
Germany's early pressure was too much for India to absorb. Much part of the opening two quarters was played in the Indian half and Graham Reid's men looked absolutely lost. Despite India's equaliser in the second quarter, the ball was much in control of the Germans, who needed little time to restore their advantage.
An error by Nilakanta Sharma at the centre of the field was capitalized well enough and Niklas Wellen was on hand to make it 2-1. A minute later, it was 3-1 and the Indian defence was at fault again. Surender Kumar failed to clear the ball after receiving the pass near the Indian goal and Germany doubled their lead through Benedict Furk.
India pulled one back towards the end of the second quarter as Hardik Singh capitalized through a rebound off a penalty corner. The teams went into half-time with a score of 3-3 after Harmanpreet Singh had scored from a PC. The momentum, however, moved to India's favour when the men in blue were awarded a penalty stroke. Rupinder Pal made no mistake in making it 4-3.
Minutes later, India scored their fifth. A sensational run from the right flank by Gurjant Singh was converted brilliantly by Simranjeet Singh. Lukas Windfeder made it 5-4 towards the end, but that was it for them. They decided to take their goalkeeper off for an outfield player in the final four minutes, but India managed to survive a flurry of German attacks. With a mere six seconds to go, they earned a penalty corner, but couldn't beat PR Sreejesh, who made sure India return home with a medal around their neck with a fantastic save.
Despite a slow start, India's conversion rate was much better than Germany's. The team scored their five goals through 11 attempts compared to Germany's four goals from a whopping 24 attempts. As far as penalty corners are concerned, India conceded 13, but Germany could only muster one goal from that. India, on the other hand, scored two goals from six penalty corners.
The stark contrast in goalkeeping was evident too. Sreejesh, an experienced veteran, saved nine out of Germany's 13 attempts on target. Alexander Stadler, Germany's 21-year-old keeper, could only save two of India's seven shots on goal.
"It is the best feeling to be here," said Rupinder Pal after the match. "We came here for gold, but winning bronze is a great achievement. I hope hockey will become popular in India from here on.
"It's been a long time, people are forgetting hockey in India, but they have started believing in us," he added.
Featured photo: Hockey India