Indians growing up all over the country have been taught that Hockey is perhaps India's most important and prestigious sport. It is only fitting for a country which has won 8 Olympic gold medals, and produced some of the finest players in the game to be regarded as one of the greatest nations to ever play the sport. In the past four decades, Indian hockey has suffered several setbacks, and they were no longer considered to be a brutal force in the sport.
However, after years of 'setbacks' and 'disappointments,' Indian hockey has finally reached its promise land. A country which has failed to win a Olympic medal in Hockey since the past 41 years, now stands a chance to win not one, but two medals at Tokyo Olympics. Just a day after Indian men's hockey team dispatched Great Britain in the quarterfinals to reach their first Olympic semifinal in 49 years, the women's team delivered a performance which will be remembered for ages.
Indian women's hockey who barely made it to the quarterfinals, created one of the biggest upsets at Olympics, as Rani Rampal's spirited side defeated the mighty Australians in the quarterfinals. The Indian side displaying plenty of youthful exuberance, defended for their lives as they shocked the two time world champions by a score line of 1-0.
Next up for India is semifinal clash against Argentina, who saw off Germany pretty comfortably. However, our women have shown that they are no pushovers when it comes to crunch battles, and will be up against a tough battle against the London 2012 Olympic Games silver medalists. In this article, we have a look at India's extraordinary run to the semifinals at Tokyo Olympics:
A drubbing received at the hands of reigning world champions, Netherlands
Final Score line: India 1 - Netherlands 5
Indian Women's hockey team faced their stiffest challenge in their opener against the reigning world champions, Netherlands. The Dutch women brushed aside a young and nervous Indian side to begin their quest for a gold medal at Tokyo Olympics. The Women in Blue were hammered by the favorites, and defeated by a score line of 5-1. Indian women put up a good fight in the first two quarters, however, they let the match slip away in the second half, as the world champions put 4 past the Indians in a span of just 27 minutes.
A resilient display against Germany still not good enough
Final Score line: India 0 - Germany 2
Things could have not gone tougher for the inexperienced Indian side, as they were now up against a ruthless German team which is ranked fourth in the world rankings. However, Rani Rampal and co. put on a stellar performance, despite being on the losing side. India lost the match 2-0, but the players held their heads up high, and there were plenty of positives to take from the performance. Indians had their chances, with a penalty stroke awarded, which could have equalized the affair. The next game against Great Britain was all about converting the chances, as the defence showed true character against Germany.
Quarterfinal hopes get bleaker after heavy defeat against Great Britain
Final Score line: India 1 - Great Britain 4
A clash against Great Britain was India's best chance of kickstarting their campaign, and registering their first points at Tokyo Olympics. A win was our best case scenario, however, a draw could have been achievable, provided we had taken forward the momentum from the Germany game. However, as it turned out, Indian women were defeated by Great Britain by a score line of 4-1, and the chances to make it to the last eight grew bleaker.
Two consecutive wins and a favor from Great Britain ensure Indian women reach the quarterfinals
Final Score line: India 1 - Ireland 0
India 4- South Africa 3
Rani Rampal's girls knew that if they were to book a place in the quarterfinals, they would have to win their next two matches at any costs, given their inferior goal difference as compared to Ireland. The first three points would finally arrive for India against the 2018 World Cup runner-ups, Ireland, as they won by a score line of 1-0. The match was dominated by India, but it was not until the 57th minute that the deadlock was broken by Navneet.
India needed a win against South Africa in their final group game to keep the pressure on Ireland, who would play their last group match later in the day. The side earned all three points, however, there was no shortage of drama, as Indians were made to toil hard, and won by a score line of 4-3. The lead was squandered three times, and the game was heading towards a likely draw. However, it was Vandana Katariya's heroics that saved the day for India, as she scored a hattrick in one of India's most important group stage games.
India finished with sixth points from their five matches, and finished fourth in Group A. Great Britain avoided a defeat against Ireland, which ensured that the young girls atleast bettered their performance from Rio Olympics.
Upset of the tournament against the mighty Australians
Final Score line: India 1- Australia 0
The next hurdle in India's path to the semifinals, was a clash against the mighty Australians, who could not put a foot wrong at Tokyo Olympics. Australia finished on top of Group B, winning all of their five matches, and were poised to end India's run in the quarterfinals. As expected, Australia dominated the match since the very beginning, however, it was India who managed to draw the first blood in the second quarter. Gurjit Kaur converted a penalty corner to give the Indians an unlikely lead. The 25-year-old's proved to be the deciding factor, as Australians failed to find a way past the brilliant, Savita Punia. India's defence clung on to their lives, after defending numerous penalty corners in the final quarter, as they reached the semifinals of Tokyo Olympics
The shock on the faces of Australian players' faces revealed how big an upset India has created on the biggest stages of all. The young and spirited side, led by Rani Rampal will now face Argentina in the semifinals, which will be another challenging outing. They now have two shots to win a medal in Tokyo, as India could return with as many as two medals in Hockey this time around. Will the Indians achieve a fairytale ending in Tokyo is the question of the hour, however, one thing is for certain, INDIAN HOCKEY IS WELL AND TRULY BACK!!