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Rio Olympics men’s hockey: India make play-offs after 36 years

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File picture of India vs Argentina match; credit: NDTV

After an unexpected defeat in the dying seconds of the game against Germany on Monday, Indian men made no mistake this time around against Argentina in the Rio Olympics and ensured a berth in the play-offs after 36 years, by beating the opponents 2-1 in a pool B match. India last won Gold in hockey at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Chinglensana and Kothajit gave India a 2-0 lead while a superb drag-flick from Gonzalo pulled one back for the Argentines.

Indians were quick to recover from the loss they suffered just 24 hours prior and started afresh putting up an exceptional performance as one unit in today’s game against Argentina.

Argentina came in this game having won against Canada (3-1) in their first match and drawn against The Netherlands (3-3) in the previous match. India now at second place in pool B with six points after Germany. The Netherlands have four points while Germany top the pool with nine and have already made it to the quarters.

From the first quarter itself, India restricted Argentina keeping ball possession and not allowing Argentina to make a move. India’s defence deserves a lot of praise as they not only kept the danger away but ensured not to concede a penalty corner for the first three quarters. Early penalty corners helped India have an upper hand in the game.

Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh who has three goals to his credit already in this Olympics lost out on converting the first penalty corner. However, Chinglensana Singh sprung a surprise with some variation and in no time his powerful strike found the back of the net and there was his first ever Olympic goal for India.

India maintained a lead of 1-0 throughout the first three quarters which Kothajit doubled later in the game after having found a loose ball and drilling his way into scoring their first field goal at Rio. Unexpected talent shone in today’s game wherein the PR Shreejesh-led team in every sense came across as a unit.

Argentina in no way would take the humiliation of not even trying to put up a score that easily. Fourth quarter favoured the opponents greatly as the game picked up an unusual pace with almost the entire Indian squad into Argentina’s forward line.
Argentina finally made it on the board with a superb drag-flick from Gonzalo in their first penalty corner.

In what seemed a nerve-wrecking last quarter could have hampered India’s dream of a place in the play-offs. Back to back penalties in favour of Argentina, broken defence and increased tension between Indian men could have worked against India and another same old story of India’s struggle with their last minute mishap would have made headlines, if not for Indian Goalie P R Shreejesh’s presence of mind and quick reflexes.

In just a span of two matches from the opening campaign, India displayed brilliant performance and showed signs of tremendous improvement. Doesn’t seem like long before India bag another Olympic medal after a drought of 36 long years. India next play Canada on August 11 in their penultimate fixture of group league.