Tokyo: A brave and determined Indian women’s hockey team etched its name in the history books by entering the Olympic Games semifinals for the first time, stunning three-time champions and world no.2 Australia 1-0 in an intense last-eight tie here on Monday.
A day after the Indian men’s team entered the Olympic semifinals following a 49-year gap, the world no. 9 women’s side also produced a phenomenally gritty performance to make it way into the last four.
From facing poverty in childhood to fulfilling Olympics dream; hockey team captain Rani Rampal has come a long way
Coming into the match, the odds were totally against India as in world no.2 Australia, a mighty unbeaten opponent, awaited them.
But the Indians, determined to prove a point, produced a strong and brave performance to eke out the narrow win over the Hockeyroos.
Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion when it mattered and converted India’s lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Australians.
India’s best performance in the Olympics came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games where they finished fourth out of six teams.
In that edition of the Games, women’s hockey made its debut in the Olympics and the sport was played in a round-robin format with top two teams qualifying for the final.
The Rani Rampal-led side will play Argentina in the semifinal on Wednesday. The Indians started slow off the blocks but grew in confidence as the match progressed.
Australia had the first shot at the goal but India goalkeeper Savita did just enough to deny Amrosia Malone, whose slap shot from inside the circle hit the post.
The Indians thereafter adopted an aggressive approach and caught the Australian defence off guard quite a few times.
India’s pace and determination seemed to have surprised the Australians as they panicked while defending and were lucky not to have conceded a goal in the first quarter.
In the ninth minute, skipper Rani Rampal’s deflection from a Vandana Katariya shot hit the back post as Australia survived.