Eight time Gold medal winners India will make their Olympics return after a gap of 8 years to break the 32 year jinx of not winning a medal in the Olympics. The Indian team, which last won gold in 1980 Moscow Olympics, would like to set the record straight and win gold in London 2012.
Let us look at India’s path to London Olympics and see how they will fare in the biggest hockey tournament.
ROAD TO LONDON
After Chile disaster in 2008, Indian hockey was down in the pits and there was no hope for a turnaround. In came Jose Brasa and things started to change for Indian hockey. The team started well but missed direct qualification to Olympics when they failed to win Gold in Asian Games 2010 and finished with a bronze medal. Missing out on gold meant India had to play the Olympics Qualifiers to qualify for the Olympics. The nightmares of Chile disaster once again started to haunt Indian hockey fans but Indian team under the guidance of Australian Coach Michael Nobbs won the Olympics Qualifiers in style scoring 44 goals with Sandeep Singh top scoring with 16 goals in the Qualifiers.
Every game in the Olympics will be a tough game and same is for India, who is placed in Group B of Olympics hockey pool along the likes of Netherlands, gold medal winner of 2008 Olympics Germany, New Zealand, Korea and Belgium. The Indian team is the second lowest ranked team in the pool after Belgium (ranked 13) and it will be very tough task for the Indians to qualify for the semi-finals. The Indian team will start their campaign against world number 3, Netherlands on July 30. If we look at the last game records against Group B opponents, India has lost to every team except Korea so it is going to be very difficult for the Indian team to make it to the semi-finals.
Right now, its all about blue turf. On the blue turf Indian team started off badly with losing all the games played in Olympics Hockey Test Event including a practice game against Australia 12-0, but after that Indian team have come back strongly and did well to finish third in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Currently, the Indian team is in Europe getting ready for the Olympics. In the first leg of the tour, the Indians were in France, where they played two games and beat France 8-2 (green turf) and 4-0 (blue turf). Looking at the recent results, the Indian team is doing well and will be the surprise package in the Olympics.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Every Indian hockey fan wants their team to win Gold in the Olympics but deep down even they know that it will be very difficult to achieve it. The Indian team’s goal should be to reach the semi-finals of the tournament. With a good attack and two of the best penalty corner experts in Sandeep Singh and VR Raghunath, reaching the semi-finals might be possible. The competition is going to be really tough so the best bet would be a top six finish in the tournament.
Talk about India’s key players and first name crops up is Sardara Singh, who is the soul of the Indian team. His presence in the starting XI is the biggest strength of the Indian team. Rest of the players who will make will play key role in India’s Olympics campaign are SV Sunil, Gurbaj Singh and VR Raghunath.
Goalkeepers:Bharat Chetri (C), PR Sreejesh
Defenders: VRRaghunath, Ignace Tirkey, Sandeep Singh