Tokyo Olympics: India women's hockey team miss out on bronze medal, lose thriller against Great Britain
India women's hockey team missed out on a medal as they went down to the Rio Olympics gold medalist Great Britain in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. But the coach Sjoerd Marijne's team can take pride in the fact that they finished fourth in Tokyo Games, their best-ever finish in Olympics history (while India had also finished fourth in 1980, only six teams competed at the Moscow Games in a round-robin format).
Great Britain started the match with their typical attacking style of play, forcing Indian defenders to push deep inside their own circle. There were two penalty corners for Britain in the first 15 minutes, one of them was saved by Savita, while the second one was a lucky escape for India, as Britain players were unable to trap the ball.
Savita also made two crucial saves from open play attempts in the first quarter as Leah Wilkinson sent the ball inside the circle, and Elena Rayer struck it to the Indian goalkeeper, who pushed it out with her leg. The rebound landed on Sarah Jones' stick, who took a shot on goal, only to be deflected back again by Savita. Jones attempted another shot on target minutes later, but the Indian goalkeeper denied her again.
But the constant attacks reaped fruits for Britain in the second quarter as Rayer made a run from the right, and sent the ball inside the circle in front of goal, only to be deflected into the back of the nets by Deep Grace Ekka's stick. Minutes later, Sarah Robertson's tomahawk shot went into the nets as she doubled Britain's lead, putting pressure on India.
But Gurjit Kaur came to the party to bring India back to the level pegging, scoring two back-to-back goals from the penalty corners, with powerful dragflicks past Britain goalkeeper Madeliene Hinch. A third goal was added before the end of the second quarter by Vandana Katariya when Sushila Chanu pushed a ball inside the scoring circle from the left. Navneet Kaur attempted a shot, missed, but Vandana was standing right behind her and struck it in from the near post to give India the lead.
India started the third quarter on the backfoot, trying to defend the feeble lead, which allowed Great Britain to get back to the level terms with a well-stitched attacking move. Isabelle Petter's first attempt was saved by Savita, but the ball deflected towards Hollie Pearne-Webb, who struck it past Savita to equalise.
A late flourish from India in the third quarter troubled Britain's defence, but it was not enough for Sjoerd Marijne's side to get back their lead.
A flurry of penalty corners at the start of the fourth quarter for Great Britain allowed them to regain their lead as Grace Balsdon finally scored from a set-piece.
India played almost seven minutes with 10 players with Neha getting a yellow card, followed by a green card to Nikki Pradhan. But they still managed to keep possession for most of the quarter, and even received a penalty corner. Gurjit Kaur's dragflick, this time, was saved by Hinch.
Despite repeated attempts, India were unable to get back a goal to equalise in the final few minutes and bowed down to the Rio gold medalists.
It was a dream run for the Indian team who defied all expectations playing only in their third Olympics. While coach Sjoerd Marijne's team got off to a poor start to the tournament, losing their first three games, they found their rhythm and form just at the right team. With wins over Ireland and South Africa in the group stage, India women's team booked a ride to the quarterfinals, where they shocked Australia to earn their first-ever semifinals berth, but could not reach the final as they went down to Argentina 1-2.