India defeated host Japan 5-3 in their final preliminary match in men’s hockey Group A to finish their proceedings in second place behind world No. 1 Australia in the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
The Men In Blue will next be in action in the quarter-finals of the mega event. Japan might have scored three goals but the Indian boys made sure the Men in Blue were in the lead throughout the game and dominated proceedings.
This is India’s best performance in the league phase in the last four decades as they had last finished second in the group in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when they won their eighth and last gold medal so far.
But that was a depleted field and before that India had finished second in their preliminary group in the 1972 Munich Olympics when they last made the semifinals by topping Group B ahead of Netherlands in the 16-team, two-pool competition.
On Friday, India looked in control as they surged to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. But Japan came storming back to level the scores 2-2 early in the third quarter before Graham Reid’s India tightened their game, launched some good attacks to score three more goals to put the result beyond doubt. Japan scored their third goal in the last minute but it was too late.
Gurjant Singh (17th min, 56th min) scored a brace while drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh (13th min), Shamsher Singh (34th min) and Nilakanta Sharma (51st min) contributed a goal each for India. Kenta Tanaka (19th min), Kota Watanabe (33rd min) and Kazuma Murata (59th min) scored the three goals for Japan.
India ended their campaign with 12 points from four wins and one defeat and finished one point behind Australia who were held to a 1-1 draw by Spain in the morning.
Spain, New Zealand, and Argentina are contesting for the remaining two quarterfinal spots from Pool A.
(With inputs from IANS)