Bhubaneswar: Their morale lifted by a stunning win over the Netherlands, India would now eye a semifinal berth when they take on an ever-improving Belgium in the quarterfinal of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament, here on Thursday.
India did not have the best of starts in the elite eight-nation tournament as they slumped to 0-1 and 2-4 defeats against Olympic champions Germany and World Cup bronze-medallist Argentina respectively in their first two Pool B matches.
After losing to a late goal against the Germans in their tournament opener, India squandered the lead twice to slump to a 2-4 defeat against Argentina. Their morale definitely took a beating after two defeats and just when they were being counted out, the Sardar Singh-led side produced an inspiring performance to shock the Netherlands 3-2 in their final league match and finish third in Pool B ahead of the mighty Germans.
After the splendid show against the Netherlands yesterday, India will definitely fancy their chances against the fourth-ranked Belgium. But it would be easier said than done as Belgium and England looked like the teams to beat in the tournament and finished their pool engagements on an unbeaten note.
While England topped Pool A with seven points from two wins and a draw, the Red Lions finished second with five points by virtue of one win and two draws.
But knock-out rounds are a completely different ball game as one bad day in office can spoil the entire hardwork of a team and Belgium would be completely aware of the fact.
Against all expectations, Sardar Singh and Co came up with a superlative display to register their first win over the Netherlands in 18 years in front of a packed Kalinga Stadium.
The win not only ended India's two-match losing streak, but also helped the hosts break their 18-year jinx against the mighty Dutch. India last defeated the Netherlands way back in 1996 in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Barcelona.