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Indian men’s hockey team all pumped up for bronze medal clash against Germany

Indian players are keen to make amends for Tuesday's loss against Belgium (Image courtesy: Twitter/@TheHockeyIndia)

India men's hockey team will be looking for a first Olympic medal since Moscow 1980 while Germany will be aiming to match the third place finish they achieved at Rio 2016 when both teams clash in the bronze medal match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Thursday. The gold medal clash will take place between the two highest ranked teams in the world, with Australia, Olympic champions at Athens 2004, set to face reigning world champions Belgium, silver medallists at Rio 2016.

"I think we should just forget about what happened in the semifinal and just put all our focus and energy into the game against Germany. The team has the experience of playing them in recent times. We are ready for the challenge," said Indian captain Manpreet Singh on the eve of the bronze medal play-off.

Singh was referring to the 5-2 triumph over India by Belgium's Red Lions in the thrilling semifinal contest. How well India, the eight-times Olympic gold medallists, have recovered fully from the loss would be seen in the match against Germany, which begins at 7 AM IST.

"We have the entire country's support. We even had the honourable Prime Minister call us and wish us after the semifinal loss. He asked us to not feel disappointed and just look forward to playing well on Thursday and that's what we plan to do. We are pumped up for the game," Manpreet told Hockey India.

Chief Coach Graham Reid, meanwhile, introspected on the Belgium match and expressed that the team paid the prize for not converting opportunities early in the game.

"We created a lot of opportunities and really we should have converted. We couldn't get that scoreboard pressure to go to 3-1. When it was 2-2 also, we had the opportunity to go 3-2. The number of opportunities at that time, we didn't get that scoreboard pressure back on Belgium. There were a few periods of play when we lost the ball and they scored, and we spiralled a little bit after that. I think we paid the prize of not getting that scoreboard pressure back onto them when we could have," rued Reid.

But he said the team will make amends to their game when they face-off with Germany.

"As far as Germany is concerned, players are keen to make amends for Tuesday. They are aware the bronze medal is up for grabs. Mentally, we are in the right space, and we will be working harder. We will be making sure all our T's are crossed for the games against Germany."

Rani Rampal, the captain of the Indian women's team, also echoed the same sentiments after the 1-2 semifinal loss against Argentina.  

"The tournament is not over yet. We still have a chance to win a bronze medal and we will see what we can work on and go into the match with a different mindset. An Olympic medal is a medal. If you win gold that is nice but still bronze is a medal, so we will fight for that medal and we will focus on the next match," said Rampal on Wednesday.

Indian women's hockey team will take on Great Britain in the bronze medal match on Friday while the Olympic gold medal match will be played between the Netherlands and Argentina on the same day.

Argentina overcame a magnificent challenge from the Indian women to win the semifinal 2-1 with 37-year-old captain Noel Barrionuevo rolling back the years by scoring two penalty corner drag-flicks to guide her team to victory.

India – who finished fourth in Pool A but stunned highly-rated Australia in the quarterfinals with a 1-0 win – took the lead inside the opening two minutes when Gurjit Kaur rattled the backboard with a superb penalty corner drag-flick. However, it was the contribution of veteran defender Barrionuevo that proved decisive for Las Leonas, firing her team into their third Olympic final.

After Gurjit's stunning penalty corner drag-flick goal, Argentina pulled themselves level when Noel Barrionuevo produced the kind of goal she was famous for a decade ago, sending an unstoppable penalty corner drag-flick rocket to the right of India goalkeeper Savita.

Barrionuevo struck again six minutes into the third quarter, although there was more than an element of fortune about her second goal, which clipped the shinpad of an India player to completely deceive Savita before nestling into the corner. It was Barrionuevo's 197th international goal in 344 appearances for her country, but few have been as important.

India – who were rarely outplayed by the South American giants – came agonisingly close to equalising with just 20 seconds of the match remaining, as Navneet Kaur guided a deflection towards the bottom left corner only for Argentina goalkeeper Belen Succi to make a brilliant save, kicking out her right boot to put Las Leonas into the gold medal game.

"I think we were prepared to have a match like this. We knew that India was going to do their best until the end, they reached the semi-final so that means they are a great team too," said Argentina's Agustina Gorzelany.

Argentina’s opponents in the gold medal match will be the Netherlands, who are now just one win away from being in possession of the World, European, FIH Hockey Pro League and Olympic titles.
Fascinatingly, Argentina were the last team to beat the Netherlands, inflicting defeat on the Dutch during their FIH Hockey Pro League encounter in Buenos Aires in February 2020, with the Oranje claiming a 3-1 victory the following day.  

The Netherlands booked their ticket to the final with yet another dazzling display at the Oi Hockey Stadium, overpowering Rio 2016 gold medallists Great Britain 5-1 in this morning’s first semifinal. It is a fifth successive Olympic final for the Oranje, giving them a chance to claim their fourth Olympic crown against the team that they defeated to the gold medal at London 2012.

Also Read: Two young guns from Haryana light up India's show at the Tokyo Olympic Games