Indian women’s hockey team created yet another piece of history today as they stunned World No. 2 Australia in the quarters to progress to the semis. This is one of the biggest upsets of this year’s Olympics.
A team that had never progressed to the quarters defeated the three-time Olympic champions by 1-0. India’s only goal was scored by the first female drag-flicker of the country, Gurjit Kaur, who was silent for the entire Olympics.
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The 25-year-old from Punjab scored when it mattered the most. The match never looked like it was between the World No. 2 and World No. 9. India dominated the proceedings from the very beginning and didn’t give Australia enough chances to make a circle penetration.
It was in the second quarter that India broke the deadlock with Gurjit’s flick which went past Australian goalkeeper Rachael Lynch.
Asked about the goal, Gurjit said:
“That goal was not only my goal. That was the team’s goal. They did it for me and it was my job to convert it. These 60 minutes were the most important 60 minutes of our life and we played like it was our last match. We all had belief in ourselves and we played as a team and that’s the biggest reason of our success.”
It wasn’t a very powerful flick but it was India’s day. India had already missed a chance when a deflection from Rani Rampal saw the ball hit the Australian goal post.
Gurjit’s heroics are not very new to any Indian hockey fan, but what she did today will be remembered forever. In all five league matches, Gurjit was silent. There were questions over her fitness as she stayed off the pitch for maximum time.
In the match against Ireland, where India got 14 penalty corners, Gurjit was off the pitch for the maximum time. She only got a chance to take 7 out of 14 but failed to convert any.
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The Indian women showed perfect resilience and determination today to defeat the Hockeyroos. After the men’s heroics yesterday, this was yet another incredible win within 24 hours.
The Indian defense perhaps played their best match of the Olympics
The Aussies tried their best to dominate, earning as many as nine penalty corners, but Savita Punia stood like a wall to deny them all. While the Indian captain and the most experienced forward Rani Rampal looked out of form today, her counterparts Vandana, Sharmila and Lalremsiami made every opportunity count.
Goalkeeper Savita Punia called the win the result of their hard work. They worked on all aspects of the game together and, today, the result is in front of all.
The defense was, as usual, strong, with Deep Grace Ekka leading the troop. Gurjit’s interception in the center was crucial in the third quarter to avoid a counter-attack. Notably, India didn’t have any specialist drag flicker before Gurjit was drafted into the team.
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She earned her place by virtue of the power she generates in her flicks. Before this, India used power hits during penalty corners. With today’s result, Sjoerd Marijne will want to find more penalty corner specialists like Gurjit for the future.
The semifinals will be held on August 4th. The last 24 hours have been special for Indian hockey fans. They can expect more miracles in the next three days.