Tokyo Olympics: Rani Rampal & Co. up for tough fight
A bunch of fearless and determined Indian women did the unthinkable when they stunned three-time champions Australia 1-0 on Monday to enter the Olympics semi-finals for the first time.
On Wednesday, they will be aiming for greater glory when they take on Argentina.
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 favourites Australia on Monday. The odds were totally against India but led by Rani Rampal and coached by master tactician Sjoerd Marijne, they exceeded expectations.
“We made history by just reaching the semi-finals. We don’t want to just finish here,” Rani had said on Monday. “In this tournament, there are two more games left to win a medal,” she said.
Before this, India’s best show in the Olympics came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games, where they finished fourth out of six teams.
Now, they have the chance to surpass the men’s team here by making it to their first-ever Olympic Games final.
But against Argentina, India will be up against very tough opponents who are hungry for Olympic success after missing out in Rio five years back.
The Indian defence, led by goalkeeper Savita Punia, had a brilliant outing against the Australians, stoutly defending their 22nd-minute goal to register a narrow win.
The likes of Gurjit, Deep Grace Ekka, Monika Malik and Udita Duhan will have to come up with similar efforts to stop the Las Leonas, who will be eyeing their maiden Olympic title.
The Argentina women have won two silver medals at the 2000 Sydney and 2012 London Games. And they are eager to improve the colour of the medal here, after stunning the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Germany 3-0 in the quarter finals.
But having registered three wins on the trot after as many loses, the momentum perhaps is in India’s favour. The recent head-to-head record, however, gives Argentina the edge.
Earlier this year, the Indian women’s team toured Argentina as part of preparations for the Games. They played seven matches there — the first two against the Argentine youth team. Both those matches ended in draws (2-2 and 1-1).
India then played two matches against Argentina’s B team and lost both 1-2 and 2-3 respectively. Against the senior side, India played three games, managing a 1-1 draw and losing 0-2 and 2-3.