Rio Olympics 2016: India face Belgium in the quarter-finals of Men's hockey
India will be taking on high-flying Belgium in the last eight encounter on Sunday for a place in the semi-finals of the Men’s hockey tournament of the Rio Olympics 2016. Featuring in the knockout stages after a gap of 36 years, the Men in Blue have the task of dislodging the best side in the competition so far cut out before them if they are to maintain any hope of a podium finish this time.
Inconsistency found their way back to make life difficult for the Indian men’s hockey team on Friday as they faced a winless Canadian side in the last Pool B fixture. Placed comfortably in 3rd position, all the Blueshirts required to set up a quarter-final date with their familiar as well as relatively lesser threatening opponents Spain was a win over the 15th-ranked team in the world i.e. all three points to stay above groupmates Argentina.
However, the Indians looked way off colour on the pitch as Canada began to push forward in numbers having weathered the Blue wave in the initial minutes. The North Americans slowly gathered momentum and manufactured a slew of opportunities that kept goalkeeper Sreejesh thoroughly busy in front of the woodwork. At full-time, there was nothing to separate the two teams after two goals apiece that saw India pick up a solitary point to finish with a total of 7 in Group B.
Argentina were yet to play Ireland to decide their final standing and had 5 points off their four games till then. A 3-2 victory settled it for the World no. 7 team as they climbed above India to take the 3rd place, leaving the Indians to brace for the Belgian challenge in Sunday’s quarter-final.
The Red Lions have been superb in this competition so far. They’ve defeated favourites Australia, in-form Spain and Great Britain to claim the top spot in Group A, and have scored a massive 21 goals in their 5 group games. In comparison, India have found the net on just 9 occasions in Rio, despite ranking a place higher than the Western Europeans.
Sunday’s quarter-final clash, therefore, is going to be a heavily demanding test for Roelant Oltmans’ Indian team. Overcoming the Belgian hurdle is certain to pave the way for a long-awaited medal-finish, and we’re eager to see them find their rhythm once again at this crucial juncture of the Olympic hockey tournament.