Indian men hockey team is in the ascendancy. A cursory glance at how they have fared in their past three appearances at the Olympics will clear any doubts.
Let’s start with the Beijing Olympics. Well, there’s nothing to write about that since the men’s hockey team failed to make the cut for the 2008 Summer Olympics. That was one of the lowest points in the illustrious history of the eight-time Olympic champions.
They did qualify for London 2012 but that was the only achievement they could enjoy since at the Games, India lost all five matches and finished 12th among the 12 participants.
Come Rio 2016 and they showed more progress. A quarterfinals appearance followed where they lost to eventual silver medalist Belgium.
Now, at Tokyo 2020, they have again progressed to the last-16 stage. And they have a string of three straight wins for being high-on-confidence ahead of their quarterfinals clash against Great Britain.
But can they seal a first semifinal berth in 41 years? Current rankings and past record (in knockouts) against Britain raise hopes as they have won on all three occasions whenever the two have met during that stage – 1948 London Olympics final, Helsinki 1952 semi-final, and Rome 1960 semi-final.
Overall, the two teams have met eight times at Olympics before but the honours are shared with each winning four times.
India started their Pool A campaign with a hard-fought 3-2 win over New Zealand before suffering their worst ever defeat at an Olympic when they were crushed 1-7 by Australia. However, they recovered from the jolt and went on to beat Spain 3-0, got the better of reigning Olympic champions Argentina 3-1 and swept aside Japan 5-3 to finish second in Pool A. The results have seen them climb up to third in the latest hockey rankings.
On the other hand, Britain have been inconsistent at best. They defeated South Africa and Canada by a similar scoreline of 3-1 before being outclassed by Germany 1-5 followed by two consecutive the Netherlands and Belgium as they finished third to make the quarters.
The last time these two met at the Olympics was at Sydney 2000 for a fifth-place playoff when Britain won 2-1. It has been a while that the two teams have clashed at the international stage as well with a group stage meeting at the World League Final in 2017 being the last time they played each other.
India will be hoping that their dragflickers continue the good work and the defense comprising Birender Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Harmanpreet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh rise to the occasion.