36 long years. That's what it has take the Indian men's hockey team to reach the knockout stages of the Olympics. This is their first time since 1980 Olympics in Moscow, where they won their last of their eight gold medals. India may have lost to the Netherlands 1-2 but a 4-4 draw between Argentina and Germany was enough for the second largest country by population to advance. This draw meant that neither Argentina nor Ireland can now overtake India in the standings.
The game against Netherlands saw a tense finish for India. India had gotten as many as five consecutive penalty corners - four of them coming after the final whistle - but were denied by some resolute Dutch defending and faced their second defeat in four matches at the Rio Olympics.
India got as many as five consecutive penalty corners -- four of them after the hooter had gone off with reigning silver medalists Netherlands 2-1 up -- but were denied by some resolute Dutch defending, to face their second defeat in four matches in the men's hockey competition of Rio Olympics here today.
Netherlands scored both their goals from penalty corners through Rogier Hoffman (32nd minute) and Mink van der Weerden (54th), while India's lone goal came from the stick of VR Raghunath (38th).
India were trailing 1-2 with just four minutes on the clock when they withdrew goalkeeper PR Sreejesh for an additional forward. They pressed hard for an equaliser and their efforts bore fruit when they earned their fourth penalty corner with just six seconds left to go after appealing for a video referral. That penalty corner resulted in four more back-to-back short corners. Rupinder Pal Singh ad Raghunath, who both took shots at the goal, failed to break the Dutch defence.
This was India's second defeat after the late loss to reigning Olympic champions Germany in their second Pool B game.
After a barren first two quarters, Netherlands drew first blood in the 32nd minute when Hofman scored from a rebound after Sreejesh made a fine save to deny van der Weerden from their first penalty corner.
It took India just six minutes to draw level through Raghunath, who converted the second of two back-to-back penalty corners. Netherlands put immense pressure on the Indian defence and secured three more penalty corners in quick succession. While Sreejesh saved two efforts, van der Weerden finally managed to beat the Indian custodian with a low, powerful flick to the bottom right corner to hand Netherlands what proved to be a decisive 2-1 lead.
Speaking after the match, India chief coach Roelant Oltmans said two yellow cards hurt the team badly.
"We were on the attacking side until we got two yellow cards, which was a gamechanger. You had to fight with one or two less. That's not only difficult to score a goal but it also took away a lot of energy from the players that I'm not happy about it," Oltmans said.
Luckily for India, they qualified for the knockout stages despite the loss to the Dutch. India next take on Canada in a match that they should win.
- with inputs from PTI