The Men in Blue have done it. They have broken the long gap of 49 years to enter the semis of hockey at the Olympics, wait did we say 49? Wasn't it supposed to be 41 as prevalent in the news articles as India won their last hockey medal in the 1980 Summer Games? Well, technically, they directly qualified to the finals and the last time they played the semis was in the 1972 Munich Olympics when the Indian hockey team was up against the greatest rivals of all time, Pakistan but unfortunately, the dominant team of India lost the game by 2-0. They finished their journey at the Summer Games with a bronze medal back then.
How strong was the Indian hockey team?
The Indian hockey team has been the most powerful at the Olympics. It is actually the only sport where we lead all the other nations with 8 gold medals, 1 silver and 2 bronze. The Indian team in the 20th century was a delight to watch as they dominated every other team before it was broken at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
What exactly happened in the match?
On paper, the team was expected to win gold and had topped the group stages but had to suffer the defeat at the hands of Pakistan who were ranked 2nd in the group rounds. So what went wrong? The defending champions were strong both in the terms of a mix of youth and seniors, everyone was mature and was playing well. The ruffle was that several players were dropped post-1968 which made it a completely new team look who was yet to play at international tourneys.
The attack on the Israeli team also impacted their game as the Olympics were halted for two days breaking the consistency and mental attitude of the players.
During the game, India being the dominant force got 16 penalty corners and open sitters which they couldn't convert. Also, they had some problems with the selections, the team should have included players like Surjit Singh and Balbir Singh who were not picked despite their tremendous skills. The era of solo dominance of India ended with this loss as the dream of gold was fading slowly.
The Men in Blue still made a comeback in the bronze medal encounter to defeat the Dutch side to clinch victory. After a gap of 49 years, the Indian national hockey team will again be aiming for nothing less than a podium finish to bring back the lost glory in the sports of hockey.