India’s inspiring run at the Rio 2016 Olympics was ended by Belgium in the quarter-finals after they lost the match 3-1 on Sunday to crash out of the tournament. Belgium march into the semi-final of the hockey competition while India head home.
India was a match of two halves as India had their chances in the first half while Belgium dominated the possession. The second half clearly belonged to Belgium as they created regular chances and scored on three occasions.
India were the first to score when Akashdeep Singh deflected a brilliant pass from Manpreet Singh from outside the circle in the first quarter. Belgium did have their chances but the Indian defence was up to the task to deny them.
India vs Belgium, men’s hockey, Live updates:
2215 hrs IST: All over for India as they lose 3-1 against Belgium in the quarter-final to crash out of the tournament
2204 hrs IST: GOAL! Tom Boon makes it 3-1 for Belgium. Indian defence no where in place and Boon past 2 defenders and a powerful cross shot past Sreejesh
2200 hrs IST: India concede a PC. Their third of the game. But denied again by India. On the counter attack, Akashdeep fails to break the Belgian defence
2158 hrs IST: Harmanpreet sends a powerful shot from outside the circle but no Indian player in the circle could get a touch on that
2155 hrs IST: End of the third quarter and Belgium in the all important lead. India need to eqaulise
2154 hrs IST: GOAL! Belgium score the important goal. Dockie again with a brilliant finish. He just defelects the ball into the top corner. Belgium 2-1
2152 hrs IST: India concede a PC with two minutes remainging. Tom Boon to drag, But Sreejesh denies it again. Brilliant
2150 hrs IST: India press for a goal but the turnovers are two many from India. Belgium with a man advantage as Raghu gets a green card
2145 hrs IST: Belgium once again dominating the game. Sreejesh denies them twice but they are pressing. More circle penetrations than India
2142 hrs IST: GOAL! Sreejesh is beaten! Dockier with a solo effort and a powerful shot gives Belgium the equaliser
2139 hrs IST: Belgium with a chance to equalise with a open goal but Sreejesh denies them again. First the stop from Sreejesh and then the flick is over the bar
2138 hrs IST: India begin the second half with the pass. They are playing from right to left
2129 hrs IST: Belgium have domintaed the game so far but it is India who are leading the game. At the half-time, India 1-0 Belgium
2128 hrs IST: India concede a penalty corner with just 15 seconds remaining but Sreejesh denies Belgium their first goal
2126 hrs IST: Belgium with an excellent play but Sreejesh intervenes and hits it wide. Long corner for Belgium. Pressure on India
2125 hrs IST: Belgium slow down the pace of the game with under two minutes remaining in the quarter. India holding it tight
2124 hrs IST: Under four minutes remaining in the second quarter and Belgium have tried to score but Indian defence upto the task!
2121 hrs IST: Akashdeep tries a reverse shot from the edge of the circle after a great ball from Sunil but just wide. Very close
2119 hrs IST: Sunil with a brilliant ball for Nikkin who fails to reach it. Could have been India’s second goal. Very close
2118 hrs IST: Belgium with two consecutive attacks but Sreejesh keeps it tight! Cleared by the defence
2117 hrs IST: Five minutes into the second quarter and India has tried to score more than Belgium but have failed to finish. They need to break the defence
2114 hrs IST: India once again begin the qaurter with some attacks but Belgium match them their own attacks. India still feeling the pressure
2110 hrs IST: India end the first quarter with the lead. This is big given Belgium’s scorin pattern. They try to defend the early lead but they are under pressure
2109 hrs IST: GOAL! India lead! Raghu with a beautiful ball from the line and Akashdeep deflects it inside the post. Indai 1-0 Belgium
2107 hrs IST: Sreejesh the wall again for India. Comes out of the goal and denis Belgium their first goal. India survive another attack
2105 hrs IST: Belgium on the attack. They have pushed India back and are more consistent in coming into India’s circle. India surviving
2104 hrs IST: India losing possession in the opponent’s half and Belgium looking dangerous on the counter-attack
2100 hrs IST: India under pressure after the early good show. Belgium press for the early goal. India defence has held up so far
2055 hrs IST: Good start from India! They attacked and defended well but both teams have failed to score
2045 hrs IST: Time for the national anthem. Both teams out in the middle
The Indian men’s hockey team will take on Begium in the quarterfinals of the Rio 2016 Olympics on Sunday, starting 21:00 hrs IST. India are coming to the round of 8 stage with am inconsistent run of performances. On Sunday, the team will play one of their biggest matches, if they are to qualify for the semis. The feat will ensure a chance to Roelant Oltmans’ team to enter the semifinals of the Olympics for the first time since the 1980 Moscow Games.
The Belgians are in affluent form as they have scored 21 goals in the five group matches at the Rio Games, while conceding just two. They have showed their class against strong teams like Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, as well as the home team Brazil.
India might have won the Gold medal in the Asian Games, but their recent matches against Holland and Canada have dented some hopes in the camp. They will need to be on top of their game if they are to
qualify in the final stages of the tournament and ensure a medal for the country.
“Now, the real Olympics starts, because there is no chance for any losses. It is now all about winning the matches. So, it is more important to concentrate on the positive side and sharpen your weak points because you cannot afford any mistake from over there. So, it is always important to perform well in the quarter-finals,” said captain PR Sreejesh.
Sreejesh has led the squad well in the group matches. India’s defensive measures are key to holding the Red Lions in the knockout stage on Sunday.
“As a team, I think we are performing really well. We are showing improvement. I think we have gained a lot of confidence from the past matches. And I think that is going to help us in the quarterfinals. I think winning a match is more important for us now a days and gaining some points in the lay ground that makes the difference in the quarterfinals,” added Sreejesh.
Tonight, India will play its biggest match in nearly two decades. Roelant Oltmans’ side meets Belgium in the quarterfinals of the Rio Games, and a win will mean India will enter the semifinals of the Olympics for the first time since the 1980 Moscow Games. The closest the national team has come to reaching the last four was at the Sydney Olympics.
India have given a good account of themselves so far — barring the last league encounter against Canada — but Belgium are a completely different prospect. They have been a thorn in India’s flesh in the last few tournaments, playing defensively strong hockey, which India has found extremely tough to deal with.
In the last few encounters, Belgium have beaten India by the narrowest of margins – either 1-0 or 2-1. Their strategy has been simple – score an early goal and close the doors on India, marking the forwards closely and not allowing an inch of extra space in the midfield. Since their players are technically gifted, Belgians make few errors. But that doesn’t make them a defensive side.
The Red Lions are one of the most fluent attacking outfits. At the Games so far, they have scored 21 goals in the five group stage matches while conceded just two. In the process, they’ve eased past world champions Australia, European giants Britain, New Zealand and hosts Brazil. Their only defeat came against an inspired New Zealand, who have defied expectations themselves.
After years of showing promise, the golden generation of Belgian hockey finally seems to be living up to its potential. So India will have to bring their A game to the table, and perhaps even more. The Asian Games gold medallists have been playing some of the finest hockey in recent years but the defeat to Holland and draw against lowly Canada have hampered their momentum.
But more than the uninspiring performance against Canada the other day, the bigger concern for coach Oltmans and rest of the team would have been the fitness of forward SV Sunil. During one of his dashes to Canada’s half, Sunil couldn’t apply brakes and slammed into the advertising board, hurting his wrist in the process. Later in the day, he spent nearly two hours at a hospital undergoing scans. His teammates waited nervously at the village for the reports.
Finally, late on Friday night, it was revealed that Sunil would be fit for the quarterfinal. His presence will be crucial for India as he is one of the few with the ability to run and dodge past the sturdy Belgian defence and raid their ‘D’. India’s right flank looked considerably weakened against Canada, which under-lined the team’s dependence on Sunil’s speedy runs on the wings. Luckily for them, he has been declared fully fit for the encounter.
One of the hallmarks of India’s performance has been the smart use of the wings and clean tackling. The injection of pace from the flanks – with Sunil on one side and Devinder Walmiki and Nikkin Thimmaiah on the other – has troubled the likes of reigning Olympic champions Germany and even Netherlands. But one gets a feeling that India’s fate would be decided on how well they are able to defend against an extremely sharp Belgian attack, with Tom Boon, Tanguy Cosyns and Felix Denayer being the key masterminds.
Defensive discipline would be the key for India. They have been able to maintain great defensive shape in the group stage, another new aspect of the team that was struggling in this area till a year ago. But even though they have played well for majority of the match, India have crumbled under pressure, especially in the final quarter, in every match they have played. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has been put under excessive pressure, and the way they’ve been playing, Belgium are best placed to exploit this shortcoming of the Indian team.
The players looked jaded against Canada after playing high-intensity matches the entire week. But the rest day on Saturday would have rejuvenated them. For Oltmans will want his side to be at its best if India are bury the ghosts of its past and enter the Olympics semifinals for the first time in 36 years.