The Indian men’s hockey team ended 41-years of wait and hurt for the nation, with a stupendous 5-4 victory in the bronze-medal playoff, earning India its first Hockey medal since 1980.
And what a performance did the men in blue put in to earn themselves this win! Having gone behind twice in the game, they fought back to level terms, then to go ahead, and then finally to hold on to a slender lead. The win will be particularly sweet for the team, coming against a spirited and talented side as the Germans.
The Germans were in the ascendency as soon as the match began taking a lead in the opening minute to put the Indians on the backfoot. Despite a green card in the fourth minute, the might of the German attacks continued to cause trouble for the Indians, with chances flying thick and fast but somehow the Indians managed to keep the Germans in check. A trio of penalty corners at the end of the first quarter, did not add to the German goal tally.
It was the second quarter that turned the match on its head, with a flurry of goals. The Indians scored in the 17th minute to draw level, Simranjeet Singh scoring from an excellent counterattack. But then the Germans hit back hard – two goals in the space of two minutes and they had doubled their lead.
But then the Indians weren’t going to sitback and let the German forwards run riot, as India hit back in quick succession – first Hardik Singh scoring from a rebound and then Harmanpreet Singh scoring from a penalty corner. And yet, the flurry of goals wasn’t quite over as Germany made sure that they went into the half-time on level terms.
Two quarters done. Two to go. And it was three goals apiece, with only one medal on offer.
The third quarter began on just as frantically as the second, the Indians earning and converting a penalty stroke to lead for the second time in the contest. Rupinderpal Singh scoring for the third time from the spot and giving Indians a valuable lead. The Indians were unstoppable at this stage, Simranjeet Singh finding the back of the net once again in the 34th minute to put India 5-3 up.
With a quarter and half remaining, this was a healthy lead, but given the ebbs and flows of the match, more goals surely weren’t out of question. India had a couple of penalty corners in the third corner which they failed to take advantage of, but still maintained their lead going into the final 15 minutes.
Germany scored in the 48th minute to reduce the deficit and keep up their hopes, but then India held on to the final 12 minutes to score a famous win. A penalty corner with 6 seconds left on the goal, would have surely given the Indians a lot to worry but then they were up to the task and got the job done.