India to play Great Britain in bronze medal play-off
India put up a gritty performance before going down to world No. 2 Argentina 1-2 in the semi-finals of the Olympics women’s hockey tournament, at Oi Hockey Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on Wednesday.
In the first semi-final the Netherlands thrashed Rio Olympics champions Great Britain 5-1.
India will take on Great Britain in the third-fourth place play-off match on Friday.
The Indians fought valiantly and gave Argentina a run for their money after taking the lead in the second minute through a penalty-corner conversion by Gurjit Kaur.
But the Las Leonas bounced back strongly and skipper Maria Barrionuevo's scored in the 18th and 36th minute from penalty-corners to pave the way for a hard-fought victory.
The Indian women had already done the unthinkable by stunning three-time champions Australia 1-0 on Monday to enter the semi-finals for the first time. On Wednesday, they raised hopes of another upset.
Even though Argentina dominated in terms of possession, it was India who got the all-important lead.
Despite penetrating their opponent's circle on numerous occasions, Argentina failed to create a clear cut chance in the first quarter as the Indians defended stoutly.
India scored from the first opportunity that came their way. They forced a penalty-corner after their first circle penetration and Gurjit converted it with a powerful drag-flick.
Thereafter, it was all Argentina; they exerted tremendous pressure on the Indian defence with relentless attacks but somehow India managed to keep the ball away from the net.
Most of Argentina's attacks came from the left flank and they maintained the pressure on the Indian defence in the second quarter.
Minutes into the second quarter, Argentina forced two penalty-corners in quick succession, and scored from the second through skipper Barrionuevo to restore party to India’s early goal.
India got two more penalty-corners in the second quarter but wasted both.
Three minutes from half-time, Argentina earned their fourth penalty-corner following an attack from the left flank, but the Indian defence was up to the task.
Argentina continued in the same vein after the change of ends and attacked the Indian goal, securing two more penalty-corners soon and once again Barrionuevo was bang on target, her drag-flick crashing into the board after getting a deflection off Sushila Chanu's foot.
The difference between the two sides was the battle in the midfield, which the Argentines won hands down.
Trailing by a goal, the Indians showed intent in the fourth quarter and put the Argentine defence under pressure in search of the equaliser. This was something they needed to do after taking the lead.
They applied continuous pressure in the last 15 minutes and secured their fourth and final penalty-corners in the 51st minute, but experienced Argentina goalkeeper Maria Succi made a brilliant save to deny Gurjit.
Seventeen seconds from the final hooter, Succi came to her side's rescue again, brilliantly keeping out Navneet Kaur's deflection off Udita's hit from outside the circle.
The Indians immediately asked for a referral for dangerous ball but the TV umpire rejected it, breaking the hearts of the courageous lot who can hold their heads high.