FIH Men's Hockey Champions Trophy 2016: India to play gold-medal match for the first time in 38 years
Hockey India will meet Kookaburras, the table-toppers, in today's final.
Even after losing to the Kookaburras in the last pool match of the 36th FIH Men's Champions Trophy, the Men in Blue finished as the second best team in the group stage, and will contest the gold medal match today against Australia. This will be the first gold medal match for India in this competition; the closest they ever came to the feat was in 1982 at Amsterdam.
After going down to the World Number 1 team in a closely-fought encounter, the PR Sreejesh-led squad were looking to Great Britain's results to decide their fate in the pool standings. Great Britain, who were looking to clinch their first Champions Trophy title, missed out on the opportunity after an insane 3-3 draw against Belgium.
Belgium almost took the game away from the hosts leading 3-1 with four minutes left on the clock. But it was the brilliance of David Ames and Barry Middleton which ensured a nail-biting finish to the game.
Great Britain will now face Olympic champions Germany for the bronze medal while Belgium and Korea will meet in the fifth-sixth play-off.
Roelant Oltmans’ India will be looking to face the13-time Champions Trophy winners for a historic gold today. Australia topped the group with 13 points from five matches, while India finished on seven points.
Earlier, Australia made life difficult for the VR Raghunath-led defence after racing away to a 3-0 lead in the first 35 minutes. Although the drag-flicker reduced the margin with a well-taken low penalty corner and Mandeep brilliantly deflected for the second goal, it was not enough as Australia convincingly won the tie 4-2.
Australia had notched up a 5-1 win in the league fixture of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, and when the teams again met in the final, the reigning World Champion drubbed Sardar Singh's side 4-0. But India can take inspiration from their victory in the Test series last year at home.
Champions Trophy gold is something they haven’t achieved before, and a victory will be the perfect icing on the cake ahead of Rio Olympics 2016.
The TV telecast of the match will be on Star Sports and Star Sports HD from 12.45 am IST.