India’s dream of winning a first Olympic gold medal for 40 years moved a step closer to reality as they defeated Great Britain 3-1 to reach the semifinals of the men's hockey competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Sunday evening.
Having won the last of their eight Olympic gold medals way back at Moscow 1980, the Indian men will now take on Belgium who beat Spain 3-1 to make it to the last four along with Germany and Australia earlier in the day.
This will be the first Olympic semifinal that India will play in 49 years since the 1972 Munich Games.
India opened up a two-goal lead in the contest through superbly taken field goals from Dilpreet Singh and Gurjant Singh, with Great Britain guilty of some sloppy defending on both occasions to trail 0-2 going into half time.
Great Britain found a breakthrough hard to come by in the third quarter as India successfully defended a string of penalty corners. The pressure eventually told with the final play of the period, with Sam Ward somehow squeezing a penalty corner flick into the goal despite slipping at the vital moment.
Ward’s strike gave Great Britain a huge boost in confidence, with the team proceeding to dominate the majority of the fourth quarter. Their cause was enhanced further when India captain Manpreet Singh received a yellow card five-minute suspension. However, a rapid India break-away proved to be the killer blow, with Hardik Singh firing into the bottom right corner to seal India's first Olympic semifinal berth in 49 years.
"We are so happy because after a long time we are reaching a semi-final. Still, the business hasn't finished yet. Still, we have two more games so we need to focus, we need to have our feet on the ground and we need to focus on the next match," said India skipper Manpreet Singh.
Pool B winners Belgium were given a huge scare by a Spanish team that finished fourth in Pool A but were magnificent this evening, holding a 1-0 lead before the reigning world champions and Rio 2016 silver medallists fought back to claim a 3-1 win. Tournament top scorer Alexander Hendrickx scored twice to take his personal tally at these Olympics to 11 goals in six games, moving him five goals clear of nearest rival, Blake Govers of Australia.
The semifinals will take place on Tuesday (August 3) with India taking on Belgium first followed by the Australia vs Germany match.
Interestingly, the teams placed one to four in the FIH World Rankings have all made it through to the semifinals – Australia (1), Belgium (2), India (3) and Germany (4).