India’s men’s hockey team brings home the bronze medal after 41 years by defeating Germany with a score of 5-4. India won its last Olympic medal in 1980 and last Olympic bronze medal in 1972. This is indeed a moment all the Indians have been waiting for.
On Thursday, Simranjeet Singh (17th and 34th minutes) and Harmanpreet Singh (27th and 29th) scored braces each while Rupinder Pal Singh (31st) slotted in a penalty stroke for India.
Timor Oruz (2nd), Niklas Wellen (24th), Benedikt Fürk (25th) and Lukas Windfeder (48th) scored for Germany.
Germany surprised the Indian hockey team by surprise with their early pace, forcing action to be concentrated in the Indian circle. Germany’s Timor made the most of a goalmouth melee following a reverse hit to tickle in the first goal in the second minute.
The Indians were struggling to get out of their half before managing a deep run courtesy Mandeep Singh. Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag-flick off India’s first penalty corner was deflected over the goal by the German defence. Germany’s speed was constantly threatening to cause more damage and India had few answers. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was already having to rush out to make his spectacular saves. Indian’s saved four penalties to finish the first half.
In the second half, India began with attack and scored an equaliser in two minutes. Nilakanta Sharma found Simranjeet Singh in the circle with a long ball from the centre; Simranjeet whirled around, dodged a defender and slammed in a powerful reverse hit.
In the 24th and the 25th minute, the Germans scored again as the Indian defence was thin since the players were deployed in attack mode.
With 3 – 1 in favour of the Germans, the Indians were under pressure until Harmanpreet Singh fired home both his drag-flicks to level the match 3 – 3 going into the break.
In the first minute of the third quarter, Mandeep was brought down right in front of the German goal. Rupinder’s penalty stroke beat the German goalie Alexander Stadler and India went ahead for the first time at 4 – 3.
Now the tables had turned. The Indians were tearing into the opposing circle, and the Germans were leaking penalty corners and cards.
Gurjant Singh passed a cross to Simranjeet for India’s fourth consecutive goal to go 5-3 up in the 34th minute.
Lukas Windfeder cut the lead to 5 – 4 with a clean drag-flick off Germany’s eighth penalty corner.
Germany were down to ten men for five minutes with Tobias Hauke getting a yellow.
Germany took out their goalie in the dying minutes. There were shades of their last-minute goal at Rio 2016 with their 13th penalty corner in the final seconds. Fittingly, PR Sreejesh saved for one last time at the Oi Hockey Stadium to ensure the bronze for India.
It is a moment of pride and happiness for all the Indians. The wait has been decades long. The belief that India will bounce back in hockey has been passed from generation to generation. And today the moment is finally here. It is a proud moment for India and Indian hockey.
The Indian men’s hockey team has now won 12 hockey medals at the Olympics – eight golds, one silver and three bronze. It was India’s second medal in Tokyo after their gold at the 1964 Games.