Hockey women: India eye Argentina scalp to make maiden hockey Olympic final

Tokyo, Aug 03 (PTI): A historic feat already achieved, a rampaging Indian women’s hockey team would aim for more glory when it takes on mighty but beatable Argentina in the semifinals of the Olympic Games here on Wednesday.
A bunch of 18 fearless and determined Indian women did the unthinkable when they stunned three-time champions Australia 1-0 on Monday to enter the Olympic semifinals for the first time.
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 world number two side.
Coming into the match, the odds were totally against India but the side led by talismanic Rani Rampal and coached by master tactician Sjoerd Marijne exceeded expectations.
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.
Come Wednesday, the Indian women would look to surpass the achievements of their more-admired male counterparts here by reaching their first-ever Olympic final.
The men’s team fell short against world no.1 Belgium, losing 2-5 in the semifinals on Tuesday. By virtue of their performances here, the Indian women’s team also got a major boost when it jumped to seventh in world rankings, their best-ever ranking.
But in world no.2 Argentina, the Indian women will up against tough opponents who are hungry for Olympic success after missing out in Rio five years back. The Indian defence, led by goalkeeper Savita, had a brilliant outing against the Australians, stoutly defending their 22nd minute goal to register the narrow win.
The likes of Gurjit, Deep Grace Ekka, Monika and Udita will have to come up with similar efforts to stop the Las Leonas, who will be eyeing their maiden Olympic gold here.
The Argentina women have won two silver medals at the 2000 Sydney and 2012 London Games but a gold has eluded them.
And they are on course for the yellow metal after reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2012, stunning 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Germany 3-0.
But having registered three wins on the trot after as many loses, the momentum is in India’s favour.

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