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Tokyo 2020: India beats Germany 5-4 to clinch Bronze, ends 41-year-old medal drought in men's hockey

Trailing 1-3 after a somewhat error-prone defensive display in the first 25 minutes, the Men In Blue regathered, refocused and launched a comeback that will surely go down in hockey lore.

Published: 05th August 2021 09:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th August 2021 03:05 PM   |  A+A-

Members of the India team pose for photographs after defeating Germany 5-4 during the men's field hockey bronze medal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: 14980 days. 41 years. 492 months. One of the longest and most infamous droughts in Indian sport is over. 

The men’s hockey team finally erased that unwanted record with a soul-stirring, heart-stopping, finger-nail chewing 5-4 win over Germany in the bronze medal match at the Oi Hockey Stadium on Thursday. 

Trailing 1-3 after a somewhat error-prone defensive display in the first 25 minutes, the Men In Blue regathered, refocused and launched a comeback that will surely go down in hockey lore.

They scored four goals in eight barely believable, history-making minutes with a halftime break sandwiched in between. 

The fightback began in the 27th minute courtesy a penalty corner. 

A fierce flick was stopped by keeper Alexander Stadler but the rebound fell kindly to Hardik Singh who was alive to the opportunity of putting the finishing touch. 

More attacking play from India, who found a lot of joy via the middle of the park, earned them another penalty corner. 

From this, Harmanpreet Singh, one of the best exponents of the art, scored to bring the teams levels. It was never in doubt from the moment he struck it. 

At halftime, it was really going to be anybody’s game. India had the momentum but Germany, who had medaled in each of the four previous Olympics, had a welcome break. 

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However, Manpreet Singh & Co took off like a train in the beginning of the third quarter. Sensing blood, they went on the offensive again through the right channel. 

The much-maligned Mandeep Singh, who has developed under coach Graham Reid, received the ball, earned a clear foul and a penalty stroke. 

Germany appealed but the video referee upheld the original decision and Rupinder Pal Singh, who’s ice cool in dead ball situations (two strokes in this tournament coming into this match), stepped up and sounded the board. 

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The celebrations told its own story. In the dugout, Reid pumped his fists. The others next to him went wild too. It was justified too: this was the closest India had ever been to an Olympic medal. 

If they sensed that feeling for a first time in 41 years, they could touch it two minutes later. 

One of the pleasing aspects of this side is their ability to score field goals and they showcased that again as young forward Simranjeet Singh flicked an effort over the diving keeper from close range. 

To really make sense of the eight minutes that had just transpired, one would have to see the highlights several times. 

Mandeep had a chance to round the keeper for a 6-3 lead but missed his chance. At the other end, Germany launched an almight counterattack on the Indian goal. 

All that pressure ultimately paid off after they scored a goal from a corner. They had the opportunity to level the match with 6.8 seconds remaining when they had short corner, their sixth of a nerve jangling last 15 minutes. 

But it finished with one of the most familiar sights in a match involving the men’s team: PR Sreejesh making himself big to divert it away. 

And the hooter went soon after, signalling the outburst of emotions never before seen on an astroturf before. 

It’s been a long time. 14980 days to be exact.

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