Friday, September 17, 2021

Olympics Hockey: India’s journey to first semifinal in 49 years

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Has Head Coach Graham Reid transformed the Indian men’s hockey team? We will know all about it when it takes on Belgium in its first semi-final outing in an Olympics since Munich 1972.

In the truncated 1980 Moscow Olympics, which was boycotted by western nations led by the United States, only six nations participated, so there was no semi-final, and the first two — Spain and India — played in the final, which India won.

Since then, the team has had an interesting run at the Olympics.

Munich 1972

For the first time since 1928, the Olympics had a new champion in Germany (then West Germany), which defeated Pakistan to win gold. India failed to reach the final for the second successive Games, losing 0-2 to Pakistan in the semis. The side led by Harmik Singh salvaged some pride by beating the Netherlands for the bronze.

Montreal 1976

The side captained by Ajitpal Singh slipped badly on the newly introduced Astroturf. India failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time and finished seventh with four wins and four defeats. New Zealand and Australia contested the final and New Zealand won 1-0.

india mens hockey
The team celebrates their win against Great Britain to qualify for the semifinals at Tokyo 2020. Source: IANS

READ ALSO: Mirabai Chanu: Accidental lifter to Olympic medallist at Tokyo 2020

Moscow 1980

Yes, India came home with the gold, but it can’t be counted as a real victory, for our men were up against five unfancied teams in a truncated Olympics, which was boycotted by the nations of the ‘Free World’, including the hockey powerhouses, led by the US. Vasudevan Baskaran’s team won the gold by defeating Spain 4-3 in the final. The highlight for India was the performance of Surinder Singh Sodhi, who scored 15 goals.

Los Angeles 1984

Zafar Iqbal’s India failed to defend their title and finished fifth in an Olympics where Pakistan won the gold. They had to beat West Germany in the final league match to reach the knockout stage, but were held 0-0.

Seoul 1988

M.M. Somaya’s side finished sixth as Great Britain won their first gold since 1920. India could not recover from the 0-1 defeat at the hands of the Soviet Union in their opening match and finished third in their pool.

Barcelona 1992

Pargat Singh’s team finished third in their pool and failed to qualify for the semis. India eventually finished seventh.

Atlanta 1996

Pargat led the team for the second successive Olympics – the first captain to do so. But the team failed to find its feet and finished with two wins, two draws, and three defeats.

Sydney 2000

Ramandeep Singh’s team had to beat Poland in their final preliminary round match and were leading 1-0 when they conceded a goal with just a few seconds remaining on the clock. India finished tied with South Korea, but the latter made it to the semi-finals as they had beaten India in the group stage. This is the closest India came to making it to the semi-finals since 1980.

Athens 2004

Dilip Tirkey’s side managed only two wins and one draw, and it suffered four defeats in the preliminary round, finishing fourth in the six-team Pool.

READ ALSO: Rajeev Balakrishnan, former Indian Olympian, now an Aussie athletics coach

Forward Gurjant Singh celebrates a victory at Tokyo 2020. Source: IANS

Beijing 2008

This was the worst year in India’s hockey history. The men lost to Great Britain in the final of the qualifying tournament and failed to make it to the Olympics for the first time since India started playing hockey as a national team in the Games since Amsterdam 1928.

London 2012

If Independent India’s hockey ascendancy was established in London in 1948, it touched its nadir when the team led by Bharat Chhetri finished 12th and last in the competition, losing all six matches they played.

Rio de Janeiro 2016

Led by P.R. Sreejesh, the team made it to the quarter-finals in the revised format, but lost to Belgium 1-3. Coached by Roelant Oltmans, the men had to be satisfied with the eighth place.

All eyes are on the Indian team as they take on Belgium in the Tokyo 2020 semi-finals on Tuesday, 3 August.


READ ALSO: Olympics: PV Sindhu’s legend keeps growing

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