A brave and determined Indian women's hockey team etched its name in the history books by entering the Olympic Games semifinals for the first time, stunning three-time champions and world no.2 Australia 1-0 in an intense last-eight tie on Monday (August 2). A day after the Indian men's team entered the Olympic semifinals following a 49-year gap, the world no. 9 women's side also produced a phenomenally gritty performance to make it way into the last four.
Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion when it mattered and converted India’s lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Australians. India’s pace and determination seemed to have surprised the Australians as they panicked while defending and were lucky not to have conceded a goal in the first quarter.
In the ninth minute, skipper Rani Rampal’s deflection from a Vandana Katariya shot hit the back post as Australia survived. A minute later, Broke Peris' shot from top of the circle just went wide past a fully stretched Savita.
The Indians created another chance in the first quarter but an alert Australian goalkeeper Rachael Lynch came out of her line to deny Sharmila Devi from a one-on-one situation. The Australians pressed hard in the second quarter and secured their first penalty corner in the 20th minute which was defended brilliantly by India.
Minutes later, India secured their first penalty corner and Gurjit, who had a disappointing outing so far in the tournament, rose to the occasion and converted the chance with a low flick to stun the Australians. The Indians were bold and courageous while defending as minutes later, Deep Grace Ekka got a vital stick to keep out Emily Chalker's strong hit from close range.
Down by a goal, the Australians attacked with numbers after the change of ends and Mariah Williams came close to restoring parity but Savita came in between. Australia secured three back-back-to-back penalty corners soon but the Indian defence, led by Savita and Deep Grace Ekka, stood like a rock in front of the goal.
Social media erupted in joy for Rani Rampal's side. "Itni khushi shayad kisi jeet par mehsoos huyi hogi! Absolute Wow moment. First ever Olympics hockey semi-finals for our girls. Filled with pride. Chak De India," Virender Sehwag tweeted.
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) August 2, 2021
Australian opener David Warner praised the opposition, tweeting, "Well done to our girls they did their best and congratulations to India, good luck".
Well done to our girls they did their best and congratulations to India, good luck https://t.co/BddvYlofME
— David Warner (@davidwarner31) August 2, 2021
Former India hockey star Viren Rasquinha had this to say: "India beat Australia 1-0 to reach semis in the women’s hockey at Tokyo. This might be the biggest upset in history at this stage of the tournament. So proud of our ladies!!"
India beat Australia 1-0 to reach semis in the women's hockey at Tokyo. This might be the biggest upset in history at this stage of the tournament. So proud of our ladies!!
— Viren Rasquinha (@virenrasquinha) August 2, 2021
Here are some other reactions...
Emotions running high !
— Dept of Sports MYAS (@IndiaSports) August 2, 2021
What a wonderful victory !!
An unbelievable and powerful match played by the women of our country, we are proud of you!
— Ishant Sharma (@ImIshant) August 2, 2021
Congratulations to the Women's Hockey Team for entering the #Olympic semi-finals.
— Col Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) August 2, 2021
Congrats to the women & men of #HockeyIndia for reaching the Olympic semifinals. So excited & extremely proud of both our Women & Men's teams Here's wishing them all the very best & hope to see history being written in Blue #Olympics2020 #JaiHind #GoForGold #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/BN9iOEFZJv
— Preity G Zinta (@realpreityzinta) August 2, 2021