India to meet Australia in quarter-finals
Vandana Katariya achieved the rare feat of becoming the first Indian woman hockey player to score a hat-trick in the history of the Olympics as India scored a thrilling 4-3 victory overt South Africa in the Pool A match, at Oi Hockey stadium, in Tokyo, on Saturday.
The dashing forward scored in the 4th, 17th and 49th minute to keep India's hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals alive. Young Neha Goyal (32nd) accounted for India's other goal.
South Africa's goals came from the sticks of Tarryn Glasby (15th minute), skipper Erin Hunter (30th) and Marizen Marais (39th).
The victory gave India a place in the quarter-finals.
India's chances of going through depended on the result of the last Pool A match between Ireland and Great Britain later in the day. Olympic champions Britain beat Ireland 2-0 and secured third spot in the group.
India, who finished fourth in Pool A with six points, were joined by Spain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, Great Britain and Australia in the quarter-finals.
Australia, who topped Pool B after a 2-0 win over Argentina, will take on India.
Spain, who beat Japan 4-1, will face Britain; Germany will play Argentina, and the Netherlands, who beat Germany 2-0 to finish on top of the group, will meet New Zealand.
India would not have had to wait for the outcome of the Britain-Ireland match had they not lost their first three group outings.
They started with a 1-5 thrashing from the Netherlands and lost 0-2 to Germany next.
The 1-4 beating from Great Britain only added to their misery before they got back to winning ways with a narrow 1-0 win against Ireland.
In a must-win match to stay alive in the competition, the Indians meant business and pressed hard on the South African defence from the start.
In doing so, they forced two penalty-corners in the first two minutes of the match but drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur's poor execution continued in the tournament.
Still, it did not take India long to open their account. In the fourth minute, Vandana gave her side the lead, tapping in from close after being set up by Navneet Kaur's great run from the right flank.
India kept up the pressure and penetrated the South African circle many times without much success.
But seconds from the end of first quarter, a lapse in concentration from the defence cost India dearly as South Africa drew level through Tarryn Glasby, who deflected in a long shot from Taryn Mallett.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Vandana restored India's lead when she deflected in Deep Grace Ekka's flick from India’s fourth penalty-corner.
But, just like in the first quarter, India surrendered the lead seconds away from half-time when Hunter found the net from her team's first penalty corner.
Two minutes after the change of ends, Neha restored the lead again, deflecting in a Rani hit from a penalty-corner as the Indians executed a fine variation.
The fragile Indian defence wilted under pressure once again, when South Africa drew level for the third time in the match, through a Marais strike.
South Africa enjoyed a good run of play in the initial minutes of final quarter and, in the process, secured three penalty-corners in quick succession, but the Indian defence did enough to deny them success.
In the 49th minute, a brilliant Vandana saved the day for India when she deflected in Gurjit Kaur's flick from another penalty-corner.
Thereafter, the Indians fell back and were content keeping possession before successfully referring a penalty-corner decision given against them two minutes from the hooter.