The dream of Olympic gold in hockey after 41 years remained unfulfilled, as the Indian men's hockey team lost 2-5 to the world champions Belgium. The semi-final exit still leaves the Men in Blue with a chance to clinch a bronze medal at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
Belgium's Alexander Hendrickx, the tournament's highest goal scorer, netted a hat-trick while Loick Luypaert and John-John Dohmen scored a goal each to take Belgium into the final for the second successive year at the Olympics. Harmanpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh scored the two goals for India.
Belgium's Attack Too Heavy For India
The reigning silver-medallists, Belgium, were relentless in their attack and won as many as 14 penalty corners in the semi-final clash. Penalty corners have been India's weakness since the start of the tournament, and Belgium's game-plan indicated they were targeting that weakness. They succeeded too. Out of the five goals scored by the Belgians, four came from penalty corners. India, too earned five penalty corners but only managed to convert one of them into a goal.
However, the score was locked at two apiece at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter began, and the Belgian attack proved too strong for the Indian men as they conceded three goals in the last 15 minutes. India's previous appearance in an Olympic final came way back in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where they clinched their last of the eight gold medals in hockey.
PM Modi Shows Support
It has been a remarkable run for India so far. The Indian men scripted history as they played a semi-final match at the Olympics after 49 years. PM Narendra Modi lavished the Men in Blue with praise and wished them luck for the bronze-medal game.
Several others showed their support to the Indian team for their brilliant fight.
The Indian men's hockey team still has a chance to win an elusive medal from the Olympics. India will face the losing team from the other semi-final match between Australia and Germany to compete for a bronze medal on August 5.