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Asian Games: India win Hockey gold, qualify for Paris Olympics

Last updated on: October 06, 2023 20:01 IST

India Hockey take a lap around the stadium after beating Japan 5-1 in the Men's Hockey final to win the Asian Games Gold medal in Hangzhou on Friday

IMAGE: India Hockey take a lap around the stadium after beating Japan 5-1 in the Men's Hockey final to win the Asian Games Gold medal in Hangzhou on Friday. Photograph: 19th Asian Games/X

Skipper Harmanpreet Singh led admirably as the Indian men's hockey team mauled defending champions Japan 5-1 to reclaim the Asian Games gold, their fourth in the continental showpiece, after nine years and qualify for next year's Paris Olympics in Hangzhou on Friday.


The Indians, who had to be content with a bronze medal in the last edition in Jakarta, thus won their fourth Asian Games gold and first since the 2014 Incheon edition.

India's other gold medals came in 1966 and 1998, both times in Bangkok.

South Korea won the bronze medal after eking out a close 2-1 win over hosts China.

Harmanpreet (32nd, 59th minutes) scored a brace through penalty corners, Amit Rohidas (36th) also sounded the board from a set-piece, while Manpreet Singh (25th) and Abhishek (48th) found the net from field efforts to register the famous victory for India.

Seren Tanaka converted a penalty corner for Japan in the 51st minutes.

Harmanpreet, thus, finished the tournament as India's top scorer with 13 goals, one ahead of striker Mandeep Singh.

The Indians, who ended the tournament unbeaten, were by far the better side against Japan, whom they had defeated 4-2 in the pool stages.

India captain Harmanpreet Singh struck a brace

IMAGE: Indian captain Harmanpreet Singh struck a brace. Photograph: Hockey India

The Indians mostly used the flanks to great effect to build their attacks and also used down-the-line long balls to perfection.

The Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists were quick to get off the blocks and made quite a few circle penetrations but failed to convert them into goals in the first quarter.

India played high-press hockey and constantly put the Japanese defence under pressure.

They got their first chance in the fifth minute but Lalit Upadhyay's deflection from a pass from the left flank was saved by Japanese goalkeeper Takumi Kitagawa.

The Indians kept on pressing hard and, in the process, secured their first penalty corner of the match but Harmanpreet's flick was brilliantly saved by an agile Kitagawa.

Two minutes into the second quarter, India earned another penalty corner but the variation didn't work as Rohidas's flick went over the post.

The Indian Hockey team celebrate after winning the gold and qualifying for the Paris Olympics 

IMAGE: The Indian Hockey team celebrate after winning the gold and qualifying for the Paris Olympics. Photograph: Hockey India

India continued their attacking hockey and finally took the lead in the 25th minute when Manpreet scored from a rebound with a powerful reverse hit from top of the circle after Abhishek's initial try, from close range, was saved by the Japanese goalkeeper.

Two minutes from half-time, India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was alert in front of his goal and was perfectly placed to deny Japan's try, blocking the ball with his legs.

Two minutes into the second half, India secured three consecutive penalty corners and this time Harmanpreet was bang on target with the final attempt, sounding the board with a powerful drag-flick to the left of Kitagawa's extend left leg.

Minutes later, Rohidas tripled India's lead, finding the net with a powerful high flick that beat Japan goalkeeper Kitagawa all ends up.

Shamsher Singh then came close to registering his name in the score sheet only to be denied by Kitagawa.

It was complete domination by the Indians as three minutes into the fourth and final quarter Abhishek made the scoreline 4-0 from a tight angle after receiving a pass from vice-captain Hardik Singh.

With nothing to lose, Japan woke up in the last 10 minutes and secured two back-to-back penalty corners and Tanaka pulled one back.

Harmanpreet added salt to Japan's wounds when he converted his second penalty corner just a minute from the final hooter.

Action from the Asian Games Men's Hockey final 

IMAGE: Action from the Asian Games Men's Hockey final. Photograph: Hockey India

Goalkeeping stalwart PR Sreejesh indicated securing the Paris Olympic quota place with nearly 10 months to go for the global showpiece will give the team time to prepare properly.

"The main thing is we get a year to prepare for the Olympics, that's the best part. Secondly, it's a wake-up call. At the last Olympics we did a great job, then the Asian Championships, now the Asian Games," he said.

"Whenever we play at an Asian Games it always comes into our minds about it being a ticket to the Olympic Games. Japan put on a wonderful display. They made an effort to score more goals, which gave us control of the game."

He added that while India had a lot of exposure to European teams in the lead-up to the Asian Games, all continental teams were dangerous because they gave it their all on the field.

"All the Asian countries are here to win the tournament and get to Paris (Olympics). We definitely have more exposure playing against most of the European countries, but when it's on the field the (Asian teams) give 100 per cent," added Sreejesh.

Midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad said the team's strategy in all the matches here was to defend doggedly.
"Offence wins matches but defence wins you championships. That is our mantra and why we achieved what we did here," said Prasad.

India chief coach Craig Fulton said the team will test its Olympic preparations during Hockey Pro League season next year.

Asked whether India needed to raise its competitive level for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Fulton said, "No. That would come in time as you know the Pro League is in February, so that's the way we will test there."


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