For the first time in history, the Indian women's hockey team finished at the fourth position at the Olympic Games. India's road to the semi-final was a topsy-turvy ride. They lost the first three games of their campaign before making an astonishing comeback in the next three games. They pulled off a victory against Australia in the quarter-final. Here is a glance at how the historic journey panned out for the Indian team.
India 1 – The Netherlands 5: A Disastrous Start
The tournament began on a dismal note for the Indian team, as the Netherlands scored as many as five goals. India gave a tough fight to the world champions in the first half but the Dutch took advantage of the defensive vulnerabilities to score four goals in the second half. Captain Rani Rampal's goal was the only silver lining in the opening match of the tournament.
India 0 – Germany 2: The Under-par Performances Continue...
After a defeat against the Netherlands, India were up against Germany in a bid to register their first victory of the Tokyo Olympics. Although Germany were in the driver's seat for the majority of the match, India did have the opportunities as a penalty stroke was awarded but Gurjit Kaur couldn't convert it. The opponents were clinical and won the game 2-0.
India 1 – Great Britain 4: Waste of Opportunities
When India faced defending champions Great Britain, they would have aimed for a draw to get their campaign back on track. But Hannah Martin scored just 73 seconds into the encounter as the Sjoerd Marijne-coached side were on the back foot from the first quarter. Martin doubled the lead in the fourth minute of the second quarter, while India pulled a goal back as Sharmila Devi converted a rare penalty corner for India. The worrying factor for India was their low conversion rate of the penalty corners as they could score only one out of the seven opportunities.
Lily Owsley and Grace Balsdon scored goals for the Great Britain team. The result meant that India was dependent on the other results in their group for their qualification to the knockout stages.
India 1 – Ireland 0: Finally a Win on the Board!
India opened their tally on the points table with a 1-0 win over Ireland and kept their qualification hopes alive. Navneet Kaur scored a winner in the 57th minute. India wasted as many as 14 penalty corners, which were the team's Achilles heel. Rani's pass was crucial to Navneet's goal as it ended a streak of three losses.
India 4 – South Africa 3: A Win By the Barest of Margins
India needed three points to remain in contention for a spot in the quarter-final. Vandana Kataria scored a hat-trick and led India to a victory over the South African women. Kataria became the first Indian woman to register a hat-trick at the Olympics. The match was a see-saw battle as South Africa kept equalising after India was taking a lead. However, India did well to defend in the final quarter and bag the all-important victory.
Great Britain registered a 2-0 victory over Ireland, which propelled India to the quarter-final stage.
India 1 – Australia 0: A Victory Against All Odds
On the back of victories in their last two matches, the Rani Rampal-led side entered the quarter-final against Australia as a confident team. However, the Aussies were the overwhelming favourites against the women in blue. The Hockeyroos had won all of their group stage matches while conceding just a solitary goal.
Goalkeeper Savita Punia pulled off nine saves as Australia couldn't find the back of the net. India's defence showed some much-needed discipline throughout the match as Gurjit Kaur's 22nd-minute goal from a penalty corner was enough for India to knock out the three-time champions.
India 1 – Argentina 2
Gurjit Kaur scored in the second minute of the match as India took the early lead in the semi-final. The Indian team was high on confidence after the win against Australia. In the second and third quarter, the team's approach was defensive and that's what cost them the game.
India 3 – Great Britain 4: So Close, Yet So Far
For the majority of the contest, India were on the back foot but three goals in the second quarter had kept their hopes alive in the Bronze medal match. Great Britain scored a couple of goals at the start of the second quarter and India were dominant as they overturned the deficit in the same quarter.
Great Britain equalised in the 4th minute of the second half and then took the lead in the last quarter to win the bronze medal.
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